The Trump administration has dealt another blow to the the flailing Palestinian Authority (PA) in the form of more budget cuts, this time to the PA’s security forces.
The State Department released its congressional budget request for 2021 on Monday; noticeably missing was funding for the Palestinian Security Services, which has received bipartisan support in congress for 27 years.
Last year, the US provided the Palestinians with an estimated $35 million for their security services.
Since President Trump took office, the US has been steadily cutting humanitarian and economic aid to the Palestinians, plunging the PA and other organizations like UNRWA into deep financial crises.
While the new budget does not provide an explicit package for the Palestinian security forces, it does request $200 million to go towards a “Diplomatic Progress Fund,” that the government could use with “flexibility” to “respond to new opportunities arising from progress in diplomatic and peace efforts around the world…such as progress on a plan for Middle East peace.”
Within the Diplomatic Progress Fund is $25 million designated towards security assistance in the West Bank.
It is understood that contingent upon the PA receiving such funds would be their acceptance of Trump’s “peace plan” that was released two weeks ago, which they have categorically rejected.
The Palestinians have boycotted the US government since it recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017, and have accused the Trump administration of using “political blackmail” to force the Palesitnians to capitulate to their demands.
Axios reported in November that Trump rejected a request from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the US to continue funding the PA security forces, allegedly saying that Israel should foot the bill instead.
While the new congressional budget request is subject to major changes given the Democrats’ control of the House of Representatives, nixing funding for the Palestinian security forces came as a surprise to many.
The US and Israel have long supported the funding of the Palestinian Security Services in order to maintain “stability” in the occupied West Bank and protect Israel’s security interests.
Security coordination between the PA and Israel has been a crucial tool for Israel’s security apparatus for decades. PA President Mahmoud Abbas has threatened for months to end security coordination with Israel if the latter continues to move forward with annexation plans outlined in Trump’s proposal.
Ramallah-based political analyst and former PLO negotiator Diana Buttu told Mondoweiss that she wasn’t at all surprised by the news, saying it was made in line with the the decades-long policy of Israel to slowly dismantle the PA.
“Believe it or not, Israel doesn’t need the PA anymore for security coordination,” Buttu said.
In the past decade, Israel has worked towards technologically modifying their security apparatus in the occupied West Bank, Buttu said, slowly phasing out the role of the PA as a result.
“If you look at the way Israel operates today, a lot of it is being done by their own technological mechanisms,” she said. “Everything from new IDs with magnetic chips for Palestinians, gates at the entrances to Palestinian areas that be can closed electronically, and facial recognition technology at checkpoints.”
“The occupation is very much operating by remote control, they don’t need the PA any longer,” she said.
Buttu doesn’t anticipate that the PA will go without funding for its security forces, however, predicting that the EU and other donor countries will step up for the sake of regional stability and due to the fact that the PA security services are the “single largest employer of Palestinians by a long shot.”
An unfortunate result of that, she says, will be less funding from donor states for more crucial services like education and healthcare.
“More money has been spent by the PA on security than education and healthcare combined,” Buttu told Mondoweiss.
“So the next bunch of European money is going to get earmarked towards security, and taken away from the other areas that are much more needed.”