Saeb Erekat
Saeb Erekat Reuters

Saeb Erekat, Secretary General of the PLO Executive Committee, confirmed on Thursday that US aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) security services will come to an end as of Friday, February 1, 2019, at the request of the PA.

In a joint press conference with the deputy PA cabinet leader Nabil Abu Rudeineh, Erekat said that cabinet leader Rami Hamdallah has sent a letter to the US State Department asking them to end the US aid as of January 31 to avoid any lawsuits against the PA leadership under the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act (ATCA) passed last year by the US Congress. The Act will enter into force on February 1, 2019.

“We do not want to receive any money if it will cause us to appear before the courts,” he said, according to the official PA Wafa news agency.

The ATCA legislation passed by Congress last year provides for any government that receives funding to be subject to US counterterrorism laws.

The PA faces potential lawsuits from families of American victims of past Palestinian attacks.

Erekat said on Thursday that “the US administration has cut $844 million to the Palestinian people and institutions, leading to the suspension of road projects, schools, sewage and water projects. These projects have not been completed in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.”

He stressed that the cessation of US aid to the security services will not affect the work of these devices during the year 2019.

“We are not in need of this [US] assistance… We simply say, Jerusalem is not for sale,” said Erekat, according to Wafa.

Since 2018, the US has cut aid to the Palestinian Authority, both by congressional action (including passage of the Taylor Force Act) and changes in policy by the Trump administration.

Trump's administration decided several months ago to completely halt its funding for the UN agency for “Palestinian refugees” (UNRWA), which had previously stood at around $350 million a year.

Later, it announced it would cut $25 million more in direct aid to six hospitals that primarily serve Palestinian Arabs in Jerusalem.

In September, Washington cut aid to the PA for programs supporting conflict resolution with Israelis.

Israeli and US officials have regularly blasted the PA for continuing to pay terrorists imprisoned in Israel and their families, thus encouraging further violence.

According to Palestinian Authority figures, the monthly allowance per prisoner is higher than that of an active member of the PA security forces. The PA budget for payments to terrorists in Israeli prisons skyrocketed to $158 million in 2017.

PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas has continuously stressed that “families of the martyrs will continue to receive their allowances in full."