Trump Administration Released Dozens of Millions of Dollars to Support Palestinian Security Forces

Funds which had been frozen since the beginning of the year were recently released despite political tensions between D.C. and Ramallah ■ U.S. official: this money supports Palestinian-Israeli security cooperation

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas meets U.S. President Donald Trump In the West Bank city of Bethlehem Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Fadi Arouri/AP

The Trump administration has decided to release dozens of millions of dollars in security aid to the Palestinian Authority, that had been frozen since the beginning of the year due to the administration's internal review of all American aid to the Palestinians. A State Department official told Haaretz that the money was released because the PA's security forces work in cooperation with Israel against terrorism and violence in the West Bank.

This development, which was first reported on Thursday by NPR, comes after months of increased tension between the PA and the administration. Palestinian President Abbas has been boycotting the Trump administration ever since Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel last year. The administration, for its part, has been withholding more than $200 million that were approved by Congress for aid to the Palestinians, because it wants to ensure that the funding "meets our national security interests," according to the State Department.

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Recently, however, a large chunk of that money has been released. An American official told Haaretz the released sum is $61 million, while two other sources claimed it was closer to $35 million. A State Department official told Haaretz that "This assistance underpins Palestinian Authority security cooperation with Israel, which remains in force despite recent tensions."

The same official added that "this decision does not in any way prejudge the outcome of our review of other funding streams and programs.  It is simply the first decision to emerge from the review, which is ongoing." 

Two weeks ago, Haaretz reported that humanitarian groups in the West Bank and Gaza have been preparing to fire employees and shut down projects as a result of the ongoing U.S. Assistance freeze. The same is also true of groups that support Israeli-Palestinian coexistence programs, who relied on American grants for their activities, and are now in danger of shutting down their activities unless the American support for their actions is renewed.

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Commenting on the issue, The State Department official added that "The Administration continues to review our assistance to the Palestinians to ensure it is meeting our national security interests, achieving our policy objectives, and providing value to U.S taxpayers.  This takes place in the context of a broader, global review".

"As and when the Administration determines that a particular funding stream or project meets those criteria to its satisfaction, we will move forward on the relevant funding and programming, with appropriate congressional notification," he concluded.