For the first time in 27 years, a U.S. administration is proposing the elimination of all funding for the Palestinian Security Services.
The Trump administration deleted the budget line for the PSS in its budget request for the 2021 fiscal year, possibly ending a bipartisan measure which continues to enjoy Israeli backing.
However, the budget does include $200 million for a “Diplomatic Progress Fund” that could be used to support the administration’s Mideast plan. The State Department said that some of that money could go toward an “agreement to resume security assistance in the West Bank,” according to Haaretz on Wednesday, though noting that it “would likely require the Palestinian Authority to accept the Trump plan,” which it shows no sign of doing.
The proposed aid cut comes at the same time as the U.S. and Israel batted down a Palestinian-inspired resolution at the U.N. Security Council rejecting the Trump peace plan.
Critics of the administration read the budget cut as part of the campaign to force the Palestinians back into negotiations with Israel.
“The Donald Trump administration is using Palestinian security aid as leverage in a gambit to convince Congress to fund its recently unveiled Middle East peace plan,” charged Al-Monitor.
“Any U.S. assistance provided to help Palestinians at this time would undercut the support of [Trump’s] attempt to drag them into supporting his peace plan,” said Andrew Miller, the deputy director at the Project on Middle East Democracy who oversaw Israeli military issues in the Obama administration. “This is purely punitive, purely an effort at conditioning Palestinian behavior, and that takes precedence over any perceived security needs as articulated by his close partner [Israel].”
Last November, Axios reported that Israeli officials asked the Trump administration to continue funding the PSS, but Trump refused, saying Netanyahu’s government should pay if their activity was so important to Israel.
The White House has so far not responded to the reports on the budget cut.