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Palestinian Authority will maintain security cooperation with Israel

President Mahmoud Abbas confirmed that the Palestinian Authority (PA) will continue to maintain security cooperation with the US and Israel, despite US funding cuts to the PA security forces.

In an interview with Russian state-run news, Sputnik, Abbas said: “We still have a relationship with the [American] security services in order to fight terrorism in the world.” Abbas also told a gathering of Palestinian and Israeli activists that the PA has a “joint agreement to fight terrorism” with Israel and “will not violate it” — because if it does, “nothing will remain”. Additionally, Israeli and Palestinian officials have indicated that security coordination between the sides will continue, despite the end of US assistance.

Both comments came less than a week after the US State Department stopped providing aid to PA security forces at Ramallah’s request. In December, Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said that the PA no longer wanted US aid after the new Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act (ATCA) comes into force on 1 February because the new law says recipients of US aid become subject to US court rulings. The Secretary-General of the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s Executive Committee, Saeb Erekat, echoed these comments saying the Palestinians can no longer accept aid from the US because of ATCA, as it would potentially subject the PA to millions of dollars in lawsuits.

Another piece of legislation, the Taylor Force Act of March 2018, made US aid to the Palestinians conditional on the PA taking “credible steps to end acts of violence” and end routine payments to convicted terrorists and their families. Together, the two pieces of legislation leave the PA open to prosecutions in US federal courts from US citizens who were victims of Palestinian terrorist attacks. Reports suggest that the Trump administration and some members of Congress have been exploring ways to amend the law to preserve US aid for PA security forces.

Over the past year, the Trump administration has reduced the majority of its financial aid to the Palestinians. The US halted its funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in 2018 and cut funding to a number of Palestinian NGOs. The Trump administration has been trying to pressure the PA to re-engage with its attempts to launch Israeli-Palestinian talks. A plan for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations is expected to be launched after the Israeli elections on 9 April.