Trump administration nixes funding for Palestinian security forces from 2021 budget
Amir Tibon Washington, D.C. - Feb 11, 2020- Haaretz.com
WASHINGTON – The Trump administration excluded funding for the Palestinian Security Services in its budget request for the 2021 fiscal year, after 27 years of bipartisan support and Israeli backing.
The budget request does include, however, $200 million for a “Diplomatic Progress Fund” that could be used to support the administration’s Mideast plan, unveiled two weeks ago. Some of that money, according to the State Department, could go towards an “agreement to resume security assistance in the West Bank.” But such an agreement would likely require the PA to accept the Trump plan.
For the past 27 years, Republican and Democratic administrations have provided funding for the for the PA’s security services, which operate under Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and work in coordination with Israel to thwart terror attacks in the West Bank. Israel has advocated over the years for continuous American funding for the PA services because it views the coordination with them as a security asset.
For the first three years of Donald Trump’s presidency, U.S. security assistance to the PA was the only form of aid to the Palestinians not eliminated by the American administration. The PA decided to boycott the Trump administration at the end of 2017, following Trump’s declaration that he has “taken Jerusalem off the table” by recognizing the city as the capital of Israel. The administration retaliated by cutting all aid to the Palestinians, including to hospitals and economic projects in East Jerusalem.
Even when it punished the Palestinians for their reaction to the Jerusalem declaration, the administration still didn’t cut the security assistance budget, which amounted to $75 million in the current fiscal year. But the administration’s new budget request, which was published on Monday, changes that, and marks the first time that the administration is allocating no funding at all for the PA security services.
This is likely another form of diplomatic punishment against the Palestinian Authority, this time over its rejection of the administration’s Mideast plan to redraw the borders of Israel, which was published two weeks ago. The plan was unveiled by Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu six weeks before the March 2 Israeli election, and just hours after three criminal indictments against Netanyahu were officially submitted to the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court.
In November 2019, Axios reported that Israeli officials asked the Trump administration to continue funding the PA security services, but Trump refused, saying Netanyahu’s government should pay for those forces if their activity was so important to Israel. American support for the security services has also been complicated by the “Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act,” a law that passed Congress in 2018 and could expose the PA to massive lawsuits in the United States if it accepts any form of U.S. assistance.