A member of the security forces of the Palestinian Authority gestures as a truck carrying goods arrives at Kerem Shalom crossing in the southern Gaza Strip November 7, 2017. .
(photo credit: REUTERS/IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA)
Security coordination between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is in jeopardy if a US law passed two months granting American courts jurisdiction over anti-PA lawsuits is not changed in the coming weeks, senior US officials warned on Friday.
The officials fended off reports that the Trump administration was working to block the law, known as the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act, which would make it easier to compensate the families of American victims of Palestinian terrorism from the Second Intifada.
This would, for example, restore the Sokolow case
, in which a US federal court ruled that the PA must pay hundreds of millions of dollars to the families of the American victims of Palestinian Authority-aided terrorism during the Second Intifada.
The bill will likely lead the PA to decide to stop receiving aid from the US government which – after the Trump administration cut hundreds of millions of dollars - amounts to just $60 million allocated strictly to support security coordination between Israel and the PA.
“It is an American and Israeli interest that this aid continues and that the security coordination continues,” a senior US official told The Jerusalem Post.
Part of this money is used to support the work of Lt.-Gen. Eric Wendt, the current US security coordinator for Israel and the Palestinian Authority, who works with both sides to ensure that the forces cooperate in combating terrorism in the West Bank. If the PA were to stop receiving US assistance, the official said, Israel would likely need to beef up its forces in the West Bank.
Congress passed the act earlier this year after the Sokolow case failed lawsuit against the PA. While the court initially ruled in the Sokolow’s favor, the Supreme Court overturned the ruling and decided that US courts do not have jurisdiction to penalize the PA.
In response, Republican congressmen pushed through legislation that would give the US jurisdiction over any entity that receives aid from the US government.
In effect, the PA must decide if it’s in its interests to receive $60 million from the US government in security aid if it means opening itself to US lawsuits potentially in the amount of hundreds of millions of dollars. The likely scenario is that the PA will decide to stop receiving the aid to protect itself from lawsuits, and this would then jeopardize continued security coordination with Israel.
“When the PA was getting hundreds of millions of dollars from the US it might have made sense for them to accept the jurisdiction and continue receiving the aid,” the official said. “But that is not the case when all they receive now is $60 million.”
Wendt has reportedly been dispatched to Congress to meet with lawmakers and explain the need for the amendment to the law. Congress has until the middle of December to make the change.
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