The Trump administration, which has slashed about half a billion dollars in aid to Palestinians this year, is scrambling to introduce a loophole into a new US law that will effectively outlaw all aid to the Palestinian Authority.
The US wants to protect funding of PA security forces which cooperate with Israel.
Aid to PA security forces amounted to $61 million this year alone, according to the Associated Press.
“Security coordination” between Israel and PA forces plays a primary role in suppressing Palestinian resistance to Israel’s military occupation.
Israel frequently arrests Palestinian activists after their release from Palestinian Authority detention.
The PA also passes information it obtains on Palestinian activists to Israeli interrogators who routinely use torture.
In 2015, the Obama administration warned that the forced “insolvency and collapse” of the PA would harm the interests of Israel and its settlers in the occupied West Bank.
Yet a bill signed into law by President Donald Trump in October may do just that if no changes are made before it goes into effect on 31 January.
The Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act of 2018 would disqualify the PA from receiving US aid “unless it agrees to pay court judgments of sometimes up to hundreds of millions of dollars on behalf of American victims of Palestinian attacks,” AP stated.
Legal experts told AP that “the easiest fix would be to have Congress amend the law to allow the president or secretary of state to waive the aid cut-off on national security grounds.”
US officials appear less concerned about the harm that funding cuts will have on the lives of millions of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and in the refugee camps of Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.
USAID has some 130 employees in the occupied territories – half of whom are to be dismissed by early next year.
The body provided more than $319 million in funding to projects in the West Bank and Gaza in 2016.
In addition to freezing more than $200 million in bilateral aid to the Palestinians, the Trump administration has cut $300 million in funding to UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees.
Humanitarian officials have warned of the particular harm funding cuts will have in Gaza, where 11 years of Israeli economic blockade and successive military assaults have degraded health, water and sanitation infrastructure and plunged its refugee-majority population into poverty and aid dependency.
“It’s folly, not to mention morally bereft, to imagine that you can experiment with the breaking point of two million people,” Tania Hary of the Israeli rights group Gisha told media.
The aid cuts are at once a punishment against the Palestinian leadership for protesting Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and an attempt to bludgeon Palestinians into submitting to the White House’s “peace” process and erase Palestinian refugees out of existence.
In 2016 the Obama administration and Israel signed the largest aid package in US history, giving Israel $38 billion in military assistance over 10 years. President Donald Trump signed a defense bill codifying that aid pledge into law.
Israel wary of aid cuts
Some in Israel’s military establishment are wary that Trump’s cuts in aid to Palestinians will threaten the status quo of managed crisis in Gaza.
A US diplomatic cable from early January published this week following a freedom of information request states that officials with COGAT, the bureaucratic arm of Israel’s military occupation, told US interlocutors that UNRWA funding cuts would worsen the “dire” economic situation in Gaza.
“Speaking off-the-record,” the US cable states, “our contact cited particular concern with any move to reduce UNRWA funding in Gaza.”
The cable paraphrases the COGAT representative as asserting that “the existence of UNRWA was a political poke in the eye to Israel.”
Nonetheless, according to the cable, COGAT continued to believe that UNRWA “provided valuable humanitarian relief in Gaza.”
Israel, as the occupying power, is obliged under international law to provide essential services for the millions of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza living under military occupation.