Vice President Joe Biden was just sitting down for a meeting with former Israeli President Shimon Peres in a Tel Aviv hotel in March 2016, when pandemonium erupted a few blocks away.
A knife-wielding Palestinian Arab terrorist was running amok along the city’s beachfront, stabbing passersby at random. At that moment, a group of Vanderbilt University students touring the city happened to walk up. The terrorist plunged into the crowd of Americans, murdering a 28-year-old graduate student named Taylor Force and wounding several others.
Five years later, Biden is president and Force would have been long forgotten among the countless other victims of Arab terrorism—except that legislation named after him could now stand in the way of the Biden administration’s plan to send hundreds of millions of dollars in US aid to the Palestinians.
Prior to the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, the US government regarded the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as a terrorist organization, and no president contemplated giving it financial assistance. But the Oslo agreement changed all that.
The Clinton administration declared that the signing of the accords proved the PLO and its leader, Yasir Arafat, should no longer be considered terrorists—and therefore should be eligible for US funds. When the PLO established the Palestinian Authority (PA) in early 1994, the PA became the recipient of direct American aid—to the tune of $500-million annually.
Some pro-Israel members of Congress put up a token fight. Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pennsylvania) added an amendment to the foreign aid bill requiring the PA to be in compliance with the Oslo Accords in order to receive aid. Specter said he wanted to “hold Arafat’s feet to the fire” by linking aid and compliance.
But Senator Specter agreed to include two significant loopholes in his amendment. First, it would be up to the State Department to certify that the PA was in compliance. Second, even if the State Department was unable to certify the PA’s compliance, the president could waive that requirement on “national security” grounds.
Formally certifying PA compliance proved to be a formidable task. Although the State Department is known for its tendency to soft pedal Palestinian violations of the accords, it was impossible to ignore the fact that the PA refused to disarm or extradite terrorists, or even condemn terrorist attacks.
So instead, every six months, President Clinton exercised his “national security” waiver, and the $500-million continued to flow unimpeded. Clinton administration officials argued that the aid would help persuade Arafat and the PA to pursue peace.
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