A U.S. Law Is About To End Security Aid To The Palestinians, And Israel Is Not Happy
JERUSALEM — U.S. security funding to the Palestinian Authority is set to dry up by midnight Thursday unless a fix is found to circumvent a law designed to help American victims of terrorist attacks secure damages.
The funding cutoff would end more than a decade of assistance in a move that Israel is concerned could backfire and hurt its security.
The Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act, passed unanimously by the House and Senate last year, comes into force on Friday, leaving the Palestinian Authority open to huge lawsuits if it accepts U.S. funds. The Palestinian Authority has said it will therefore forgo receiving U.S. financing, including the $60 million that Washington provides in security assistance.
However, an Israeli official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic, said Israel is supporting efforts now underway by State Department and other Trump administration officials to find a legal fix that will “maintain security cooperation on one hand and also justice to the families of the victims of terror.”
The central concern is that the end of U.S. funding to the Palestinian security forces, including to a training program in Jordan, would erode the security capabilities of the Palestinian Authority and threaten its security coordination with Israel. Although cooperation has stopped in times of conflict, Israel and the Palestinian Authority share intelligence and coordinate on arrests.
The U.S. security funding is “the glue that has helped ensure the security coordination continues and that has successfully thwarted terrorist attacks,” said Dan Meridor, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel. The implications of the act “have alarmed the Israelis sufficiently that a week ago they went to the administration and Congress to try to find a fix.”
He said that with most of the money targeted toward training, a cutoff of funds may not have an immediate effect but would degrade the ability of Palestinian forces over time. “It is also a political signal which shows the Palestinian security forces and Palestinian people that the U.S. is no longer a partner,” Meridor said.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry declined to comment on whether it has asked the U.S. administration to find a work-around. The U.S. Embassy also declined to comment.
The legislation was pushed by Shurat Hadin, a right-wing Israeli legal organization that has sought damages for the families of victims killed in Palestinian attacks. Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, president of the organization, described the efforts to find a way to continue funding as “outrageous.”
“The State Department is now standing against the victims,” she said. She added that she does not believe the funding cut would impact security coordination, which the Palestinian Authority has an interest in continuing to prevent Hamas, the militant organization that runs the Gaza Strip, from extending its control in the West Bank.
She said the Palestinian Authority has enough resources to make up the funding. The Palestinian National Council has already voted to stop security coordination with Israel, but has not carried through with the threat.
“If the United States and Israel are pushing to financially drain the Palestinian Authority, then what is the purpose of this authority,” said Mohammed Shtayyeh, a member of the central committee of the Palestinian Authority’s ruling Fatah Party.
The U.S. funding is “small but significant,” he said. “I’m sure of one thing, that this will affect the performance of the security forces,” Shtayyeh said.