WASHINGTON – Despite the growing political tensions between the Trump administration and the Palestinian Authority, a new report published on Tuesday by the State Department says that the PA continues to fight terrorism in the West Bank, and is doing so with the support and assistance of the United States.
The annual “country reports on terrorism” document for 2017 compliments the Palestinian government in Ramallah for constraining the activities of Hamas and other terror groups, and for arresting terrorists who planned attacks against Israelis. This year’s report is the first one to be published fully under the guidance of the Trump administration. It comes out at a time when Palestinian President Abbas is boycotting the Trump administration, which he claims has fully adopted Israel’s positions in negotiations.
The language in this year’s report on the Palestinian issue was mostly similar to previous reports that were issued under the Obama administration. The report stated that “The Palestinian Authority continued its counterterrorism and law enforcement efforts in the West Bank” and that “the PA Security Forces constrained the ability of [terror] organizations to conduct attacks, including through arrests of Hamas members planning attacks against Israelis.”
The Trump administration has announced over the summer a series of budget cuts in U.S. assistance to the Palestinians, hurting hospitals in East Jerusalem, co-existence groups promoting meetings between Israeli and Palestinian children, and economic projects in the West Bank that were supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development. Yet the only part of the American aid budget to the Palestinians that the administration didn’t touch, were the dozens of millions of dollars going to the PA security forces. That money was sent to Ramallah in July.
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The annual terror report made note of this fact, stating that “The United States assisted the PA’s counterterrorism efforts by providing training, equipment, and infrastructure support.” It also noted that “U.S. training and support assisted in the PA’s continued development of professional, self-sufficient, and capable security forces. The United States also assisted the PA with criminal justice investigations and prosecutions of terrorist financing and terrorist-related activity.”
The report mentioned that there was a decrease in terror attacks committed by Palestinians in the West Bank during 2017. “The heightened period of violence from October 2015 to April 2016 decreased in 2017. However, Palestinians continued to commit stabbings, shootings, and vehicular attacks against Israelis,” the report said.
One sentence in the report was devoted to violence by far-right Israeli extremists against Palestinians in the West Bank. It stated that “Israelis, including settlers, committed acts of violence, including “price tag” attacks (property crimes and violent acts by extremist Jewish individuals and groups against Palestinians) in the West Bank in 2017.” Previous years’ reports contained more information on this subject, including statistics and examples of such incidents.
The report criticized the PA for continuing its policy of paying stipends to convicted terrorists sitting in Israeli jails and to the families of terrorists and fighters who were killed by Israeli forces. “These payments and separate canteen stipends that the Israeli government allows for prisoners were first initiated by the PLO in 1965 and have continued under the PA since the Oslo Accords with Israel,” the report said. It also criticized the PA for not respecting its stated commitment to prohibiting incitement from offiical media outlets.