This bears no relationship to any Trump Administration decision about US financial assistance to the PA. Nor is it related to the contentious relationship between the PA and the Trump Administration.
At issue is the 2018 Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act (ACTA, P.L. 115-253), which Congress passed into law in October 2018 and goes into effect at the end of this month.
It ties American financial assistance to the Palestinians to the issue of legal jurisdiction within the US.
The act clarifies that if the PA accepts American money, then courts in the States could hold it responsible for acts of terrorism against US citizens and pursue it for any monetary judgements.
“In light of these developments, the Government of Palestine respectfully informs the United States Government that, as of January 31, 2019, it fully disclaims and no longer wishes to accept any form of assistance referenced in ATCA,” Hamdallah wrote.
He explained that the legislation envisioned that the Palestinian government would have to make a choice to accept or reject US jurisdiction. “The Government of Palestine unambiguously makes the choice not to accept such assistance,” he wrote.
To remove any doubt, he said, the Palestinian government will also refuse to accept any public or private funds from any US affiliated source that “is or may be provided directly, or indirectly by any third party, to any governmental Palestinian institution,” Hamdallah wrote.
The text of his letter was posted on Twitter by National Public Radio reporter Daniel Estrin.
Irrespective of the congressional law, the US had already withdrawn the bulk of its funding from the PA and its private projects, including funds directed to Palestinians through the UN.
In 2017, the Palestinians received over half-a-billion in funds. This year, the US cut $231.5 million in bilateral economic assistance, a move that has forced the closure of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The Trump Administration also cut $300 million that had been earmarked for Palestinians through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.
The last hold-out in US funds had been the Trump Administration’s support for the PA security services.
The Palestinian leadership is scheduled to hold a meeting in Ramallah on Wednesday to discuss these latest developments, including the possibility that USAID will stop all its projects in the West Bank and Gaza Strip on January 31.
On Sunday, PLO Executive Committee member Ahmed Majdalani said that the end of the USAID projects was part of the US administration’s effort to “blackmail” the Palestinians. The PA government, he said, will complete the unfinished projects “because leaving them hanging will create a big vacuum.”
A PA official in Ramallah told The Jerusalem Post that USAID has decided to lay off all of its Palestinian workers. The official expressed concern that the decision would have a negative impact on various projects and dozens of Palestinian families.
Dave Harden, former USAID Assistant Administrator, said that one of the consequences of ending the agency’s projects is the likely end of US security assistance to the Palestinians. “The security assistance channel has been the only effective link between the US and the PA since [US President Donald Trump’s] Jerusalem announcement,” he said. “Once security assistance is ended, US engagement with the Palestinians is over. Security assistance was a critical mechanism to reduce conflicts between the parties and drive on-the-ground solutions.”
Harden said that given that the US has ended – or will likely end – all channels with the Palestinians by January 31, “there is almost no possibility that a peace plan launched thereafter will have any traction.” The absence of the US in the region, he added, will create a vacuum – which will be filled by others. We now depart and turn over our stewardship to other actors – thereby giving running room to rejectionist and adversaries.”
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