Taking the money would open PA to lawsuits by terror victims

As new anti-terrorism law goes into effect, PA says it’ll stop accepting US aid

Palestinians tell Pompeo that they will not take cash until threat of lawsuits is removed; experts say move is a blow to Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation

Adam Rasgon is the Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah during a joint news conference with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul, May 18, 2018. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah during a joint news conference with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul, May 18, 2018. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

The Palestinian Authority has informed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that it will no longer accept any American aid dollars as of the beginning of February, in a development seen as a blow to Israeli-Palestinian security ties.

PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah sent a letter to Pompeo on December 26, 2018, telling him that the PA would reject US financial support because of a new American law known as the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act.

Under the law, American courts will have the jurisdiction to rule on cases against any foreign party accused of supporting terrorism that accepts US aid. In practice, that means American victims of Palestinian terrorist attacks would be able to file lawsuits against the PA and PLO in US courts for compensation — possibly in the hundreds of millions — if the Ramallah-based body accepts even one penny of American aid.

“The Government of Palestine respectfully informs the United States Government that, as of January 31st, 2019, it fully disclaims and no longer wishes to accept any form of assistance referenced in ATCA…the Government of Palestine unambiguously makes the choice not to accept such assistance,” Hamdallah wrote in the letter, adding that the PA would reconsider its decision if ATCA were changed in a way that would protect it from lawsuits in American courts.

National Public Radio first published the letter on Friday. Saeb Erekat, the secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee, confirmed to Palestine TV on Saturday that Hamdallah had sent a letter to the American administration.

Even though the Trump administration cut hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians in 2018, it has continued to send security assistance to the PA security forces.

In the past year, the Trump administration has sent $61 million to the PA in security aid, a State Department official said in an email.

Experts have said that the PA refusing to accept security aid from the US will serve a blow to security cooperation between Israel and the PA.

“Without US security aid, the PA will have fewer resources to operate,” Jihad Harb, a Palestinian researcher and analyst, told The Times of Israel on Sunday. “It will also have less incentives to continue security cooperation with Israel.”

There is no doubt this development will harm the Israeli-Palestinian security relationship,” he said.

Palestinian Authority security forces touring Israeli-controlled Hebron in uniform. (Wafa)

But Harb said he did not believe security cooperation would come to a complete halt.“I think security cooperation will initially be partially impacted. As for the long term, we cannot say at the current moment,” he said.

Last week, Channel 13 reported that outgoing IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot urged the Israeli government to strengthen the PA security forces, noting that they had recently thwarted a Hamas terrorist attack in the West Bank.

PA security officials have long affirmed the PA security forces’ commitment to maintaining stability in the West Bank.

“For security, the most important element is to keep the area of our responsibility safe and calm,” PA police chief Hazem Atallah told reporters in November 2017, in a rare briefing. “Anybody, who is trying to destroy the security and stability, is going to be arrested and is going to be stopped…This is our clear orders and no one of the whole group of [security] chiefs…is going to step one millimeter back from this.”

In early January, the Haaretz daily reported that over the past two months the Trump administration has made efforts to work with Congress to amend ATCA and enable the PA to accept US security aid.

The newspaper, however, reported that the ongoing government shutdown in the US has hindered the Trump administration’s efforts to change the law, citing two sources familiar with the matter.

The US government has been shut down for nearly a month, over a dispute between Trump and Senate Democrats regarding a border wall.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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