Congress denied President Trump’s 2020 budget request for $175 million to help put through his yet-to-be-announced Middle East peace plan. The money was intended to be kept in a special Diplomatic Progress Fund to be used to support the Palestinians in case there was a breakthrough in negotiations.
Instead, the Congress approved $75 million for the Palestinian Authority’s security forces and another $75 million for civilian programs in the PA. The move was a clear snub to the Trump administration which cut off all aid to the PA two years ago save money for the PA security forces.
The decision by the White House to cut more than $200 million in funding to the PA was in response to a Palestinian refusal to cooperate towards a mediated agreement with Israel.
But the funding came with a hidden drawback. Last year, Congress passed the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act, also known as the Taylor Force Act. The law required the PA to stop payments to terrorists in what is known as the pay-for-slay program. The Taylor Force Act allows Americans to sue in US courts those receiving US foreign aid over alleged complicity in “acts of war”. The PA chose to forgo all U.S. aid since these lawsuits totaling more than $600 million for past terror-related offenses committed by PA-affiliated personnel would undoubtedly bankrupt the PA.
The PA has made clear that it will not stop the stipends to terrorists and their families.
The new funding does not negate the Taylor Force Act and if accepted, the PA can be sued in American courts for supporting terrorists.
A source familiar with budget negotiations told Haaretz that the rejection of the funds for the Middle East plan was to budgetary concerns. The source claimed the funds were denied for political reasons because Congress doesn’t believe the peace plan will be launched at any time in the near future.
The White House announced on Tuesday that President Trump will sign the measure.
The $1.4 trillion government spending package includes $3.3 billion in aid to Israel as part of the Memorandum of Understanding between the two parties in Congress.