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Fearing legal action, PA refuses all future US financial assistance

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah waves to the crowd during a protest rally in Istanbul on May 18, 2018, against the recent killings of Palestinian protesters on the Gaza-Israel border and the US embassy move to Jerusalem. (Photo by OZAN KOSE / AFP) (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)

The Palestinian Authority (PA) had refused all future financial assistance from the US, in a move which has left Israel and America scrambling to preserve security coordination.

PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah sent a letter to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo rejecting any future American financial assistance. The letter – which was sent on 26 December but obtained by Israeli newspaper Ynet yesterday – stated that though the PA “is, and always will be, grateful for the past economic support of the American people […] US economic aid to Palestine now has become a dividing force due to the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act of 2018 (ACTA)”.

“The ACTA purports to alter the rule of jurisdiction over the Government of Palestine in the US legal proceedings,” the letter continued, adding: “In light of these developments, 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 ACTA.”

The act to which Hamdallah’s letter refers – ACTA – was signed into law by US President Donald Trump in October and, according to Haaretz, “makes it possible for U.S. citizens to sue foreign entities that receive U.S. assistance for past acts of terrorism”. The amendment was promoted after US courts rejected multi-million dollar lawsuits against the PA filed by US citizens injured during the Second Intifada. The US’ Supreme Court “affirmed a ruling by a lower court that the American legal system does not have jurisdiction to deal with such lawsuits.”

However, under the new law “U.S. courts will have jurisdiction to hear terrorism-related lawsuits against any foreign entity [receiving] U.S. government assistance. This means that if the PA will receive even one dollar of U.S. funding, it could face lawsuits asking for hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation,” Haaretz explained.

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The move has left the US and Israel scrambling to preserve security coordination with the PA, whose security forces in the occupied West Bank received $61 million in funding in 2018 alone. Though the US has cut swathes of funding to the PA over the past year, it has continued to fund its security forces in the belief that doing so is beneficial to US and Israeli interests. The US now believes that the PA’s decision to reject all future funding could leave its security forces severely curtailed and unable to administer the occupied West Bank, which has seen flare-ups of violence in recent weeks.

Ynet added that both Israel and the US have worked to preserve security coordination, reporting that: “Over the past few weeks, the Trump administration was reportedly scrambling to amend the [ACTA] legislation in order to ensure [that] US security assistance to the PA continues.”

“A senior Israeli official told Ynet that Israel has also been working behind the scenes to ensure the law was amended,” the Israeli daily added.

“The Palestinian leadership is scheduled to hold a meeting in Ramallah [in the occupied West Bank] on Wednesday to discuss these latest developments,” the Jerusalem Post added.

The US has provided ad hoc financial assistance to the PA since the 1990s under the terms of the Oslo Accords. However, in the aftermath of the Second Intifada and under the auspices of the US-led Roadmap for Peace, the US has directly funded and trained PA security forces.

READ: PA bows to US, Israel pressure to extradite Palestinian who sold land to Jews

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