The Palestinian government will refuse all U.S. government aid for fear of lawsuits, officials said Tuesday, throwing the future of security coordination and projects already underway into doubt.
U.S. President Donald Trump had already cut almost all humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, but the U.S. planned to maintain funding to support Palestinian security services.
The U.S. provides roughly $50 million in annual security support, including for security coordination with Israel that Israeli officials say is crucial for maintaining calm in the West Bank. That funding will now be stopped.
Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat confirmed that the Palestinian Authority has demanded all funding stop at the end of the January for fear they would expose themselves to costly lawsuits under the U.S. Anti Terrorism Clarification Act (ATCA) which is about to come into force.
Erekat said the reason for the move was the ATCA legislation, under which the financial aid provided by the U.S. could be used as a means “for various groups to file lawsuits against the Palestinian Authority.”
The ATCA legislation passed by Congress last year provides for any government that receives funding to be subject to U.S. counterterrorism laws.
Under the legislation, the Palestinian Authority could face potential lawsuits from families of American victims of past or future Palestinian attacks.
P.A. Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah explained that his government essentially had to make a choice whether or not to accept American legal jurisdiction tied to the aid.
“The Government of Palestine unambiguously makes the choice not to accept such assistance,” he said in a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The bill was quietly passed by voice vote in both the House and the Senate and was signed into law by Trump in October 2018. It was co-sponsored by both Democratic and Republican legislators.
Why This Matters
Erekat played down the ending of U.S. funding saying it would “not impact on the role of the security services.”
However, a senior Palestinian security official told AFP the impact could be significant.
The search is on for new sources of funding in Europe and elsewhere, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Last year was among of the worst for Palestinians.
Let’s not allow 2019 to be the same. (via @ochaopt)
— UN Humanitarian (@UNOCHA) January 21, 2019
The Trump administration’s decision to cut more than $200 million in humanitarian aid programs in the Palestinian territories is already being felt by Non-Governmental Organizations and people who rely on their support.
NGOs have been forced to cut programs and lay off staff, and tens of thousands of Palestinians are no longer getting food aid or basic health services.
Infrastructure projects that were fully or partly reliant of U.S. funding have been put to a stop and an experimental peace-building program in Jerusalem has also been affected.
More than two-thirds of Palestinians rely on international aid in the Gaza strip, which is subject to an Israeli blockade that has crippled the region’s economy.
More on the Subject
In September, staff at the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees went on strike in the Gaza Strip to protest against U.S. funding cuts and job losses.
Around 13,000 people work for the agency in Gaza, and UNRWA said the funding deficit caused by the Trump administration’s withdrawal of support is so severe that personnel cuts are unavoidable.