U.S. President Donald Trump addresses a news conference following Tuesday's midterm congressional elections at the White House in Washington, US, November 7, 2018.
(photo credit: REUTERS/KEVIN LAMARQUE)
WASHINGTON – The administration of US President Donald Trump confirmed on Friday that it has ended security funding and training to the Palestinian Authority, claiming that Ramallah itself had requested that the aid be cut in order to circumvent the jurisdiction of US courts.
The 14-year-old US Security Coordinator (USSC) mission and the $61 million the US provides annually, are perceived to be the cornerstone of an effective PA security service. But a new law passed with bipartisan support titled the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act, which came into force on Friday, exposed the PA to lawsuits in American courts from US citizens affected by Palestinian terrorist activity – if the PA continues accepting US financial assistance.
Already in December, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah informed the Trump administration that the Palestinians would no longer accept any US financial assistance, most of which had already been cut off, save for the security funds. PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat repeated that position on Thursday.
A US official confirmed that the era of US financial assistance to the PA has ended. Only the USSC mission that works with the Palestinian security forces will remain, but it will have only an advisory role, which would not involve funding to the authority.
“As of February 1, at the request of the Palestinian Authority, the United States ceased providing any assistance under the authorities specified in ATCA, in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jordan,” the official said on Friday.
The Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act, a bipartisan-supported law passed in October, is a “carefully balanced approach to better ensure victims’ access to compensation, and hold supporters of terrorism accountable,” according to its principal author, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).
“All USAID assistance in the West Bank and Gaza has ceased,” the official said. “So has US security assistance to the Palestinian Authority coming from the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) funding stream.
“The US Security Coordinator and his team continue to conduct a security cooperation-only mission. The USSC’s train and equip activities supported by the INL funding stream have ceased,” the official said.
Jason Greenblatt, a senior adviser to Trump and the administration’s point man on the Middle East peace process, slammed PA officials via Twitter on Friday for shedding what he characterized as crocodile tears on the loss of aid. A spokesman for PA President Mahmoud Abbas responded to the aid cut by claiming it would “have a negative impact on all, create a negative atmosphere and increase instability.”
“Disingenuous,” Greenblatt tweeted in response. “This aid was cut (not just suspended) at the PA’s request because they didn’t want to be subject to US courts which would require them to pay US citizens killed by Palestinian terrorists when the PA was found guilty.”
“The PA has money for health/education– but must use their money wisely,” he continued. “Example: Stop rewarding terrorists who kill Israelis. That will save the PA a fortune. They can also work with the US and others to help improve their economy and need even less foreign aid.”
Democratic aides on Capitol Hill confirmed to The Jerusalem Post that Palestinian officials had denied overtures for a resolution to the crisis, preferring an aid cut to potential legal exposure and the press that would follow.
“There is an active effort to try and preserve the security cooperation funds from both sides, but with varying approaches,” one congressional aide working on the matter told the Post. “There was an effort to get it in the year-end omnibus [spending bill], which obviously failed.”
The aide explained that a renewal of aide would have to come either in the form of an independent, bipartisan agreement, or an attachment to must-pass legislation, such as the upcoming spending bill.
Israel has been particularly concerned that the end of US funding for Palestinian security services would impact IDF-Palestinian security coordination. Although both security services have direct lines of communication, the USSC mission had also acted as a liaison. It’s presumed that it would continue to do so in its new advisory role.
But Israel’s call for continued US funding has maintained bipartisan support.
“There’s a widespread acknowledgment that it is not in anyone’s interest to see security cooperation end – it’s a question of how to proceed,” the aide added.
A State Department official said that the government was beginning to roll back operations affected by the aid cut, but another source said that the administration remains open to re-instituting the program with PA cooperation.
That, at the moment, does not seem to be in the offing. Greenblatt quipped that aides to both Trump and Abbas are indeed communicating, after over a year of frozen ties following Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“The only difference now is that we are speaking about these matters in public via Twitter,” Greenblatt said, “so the public can understand everyone’s positions. Transparency is better for all.”
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>