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Trump's 2021 budget nixes funding for Palestinian security forces

Last year, the US State Department said the aid was 'key to the national security of the US and our allies'
Palestinians protest against Trump's 'deal of the century' near the West Bank village of Tubas, near the Jordan Valley (AFP/File photo)
By MEE staff in Washington

The US is planning to cut funding to Palestinian security forces according to a budget proposed by the State Department, as Washington appears to be punishing the Palestinian Authority (PA) over its rejection of the "deal of the century".

The US has been withholding humanitarian assistance to the PA since Donald Trump was sworn into office in 2017, but Monday's budget proposal would nix funds that have continued to be paid to the PA's security forces.

Republican and Democratic administrations have been providing funding for the PA's security services since 1993.

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The US gave aid of around $35m last year to support Palestinian security forces in the occupied West Bank who work with their Israeli counterparts to maintain stability in the territory and help prevent attacks against Israel. 

The Trump administration has previously described that aid as "key" to US interests.

"A stable West Bank is key to the national security of the US and our allies," last year's budget request said.

The announcement comes two weeks after the White House released its long-awaited plan to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which contained conceptual maps showing how Israel and a future Palestinian state would appear if the Palestinians agreed to the deal.

Trump's so-called "deal of the century" would allow Israel to keep all of its settlements in the occupied West Bank and annex about a third of the territory in exchange for a dwarfed, disjointed Palestinian state with no sovereignty over its airspace, territorial waters or borders.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said earlier this month that he ordered an end to security cooperation with Israel in response to the plan. 

Diplomatic Progress Fund

The State Department's requested budget for this year appears to be seeking to leverage financial aid to pressure Palestinians to accept the deal.

It asks for a $200m Diplomatic Progress Fund to "respond to new opportunities arising from progress in diplomatic and peace efforts around the world".

The fund, the budget request says, would grant the department "flexibility" to dispense aid in accordance with emerging political conditions, "such as progress on a plan for Middle East peace".

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It is not clear how much of that total amount could be allocated to Palestinians, but the West Bank is mentioned in the description of a $25m subsection of the programme.

"The Diplomatic Progress Fund will be used where changing diplomatic conditions permit new or greater engagement on anticrime issues," it reads.

"This may include progress on Central America migration, agreement to resume security assistance in the West Bank, political transition in Venezuela, or other policy priorities."

In last year's proposed budget, Trump proposed cutting all "non-security assistance for the West Bank and Gaza''.

It also called for $175m to back a Diplomatic Progress Fund. But Congress did not grant the funding for the programme. Instead, it restored $150m in assistance to Palestinians.

The proposed budget is likely to undergo major changes as it goes through Congress, which has the authority to appropriate money for the federal government. 

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