The Palestinian Authority announced last week that it will renounce all financial assistance from the United States in protest of a new anti-terror law. The Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act (ATCA), which President Donald Trump signed into law in October and is set to take effect at the end of January, exposes the P.A. to costly law suits for its involvement in terrorist activities.
The act specifies that if the P.A. accepts funding from the U.S. government, American courts will have the jurisdiction to hold it accountable for acts of terror against U.S. citizens and pursue the P.A. for any monetary judgments.
It’s important to understand the context of this development for the P.A. can be expected to blame everyone but itself for the dire consequences of the decision, which not least could affect the delicate coordination between Israeli security forces and the P.A. in the West Bank.
In a nutshell, the decision to reject all U.S. aid money means that the P.A. has chosen terror over the well-being of its own civilian population. The slash in financial assistance will inevitably affect social services, the education and health sectors, and security in P.A.-controlled areas.
All it would take for it to avert the crisis is to do what should be expected of any political enterprise with a serious aspiration to build its own nation: renounce terror.
For many months, the P.A. has been embroiled in a heated confrontation with the Trump administration over the boycott of U.S.-led peace efforts and the continuation of its so-called “pay-to-slay” scheme, which rewards terrorists and their families with substantial cash for committing acts of terror.
Last year, the P.A. spent about $360 million, approximately 7 percent of all of its revenues, on the various “heroes and martyrs” funds that go to those who kill or wound Israelis or seek to do so. In response to the practice, the White House announced in August that it was cutting more than $200 million in aid over the P.A.’s incitement of violence against Israelis.
However, not even the loss of so much money has moved it to reconsider its amoral tactics. To the Palestinian leadership, the “pay-to-slay” scheme is not a mere act of defiance against the United States. It is a matter of patriotism.
P.A. head Mahmoud Abbas said it himself when he declared in July, “even if we have only a penny left, we will give it to the martyrs, the prisoners and their families. We view the prisoners and the martyrs as planets and stars in the skies of the Palestinian struggle, and they have priority in everything.”
The P.A. couldn’t have been more explicit about its culture of violence, and yet Israel’s adversaries continue to insist that the biggest obstacle to peace is the “occupation.”
Abbas, in an address to the United Nations in January, accused Israel of “obstructing cohesive development of all peoples of the region.” Women’s March co-chair Tamika Mallory in a recent interview with PBS refused to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist and instead lamented the “brutal occupation” of the Palestinian people.
But the P.A.’s sponsorship of terror is not just a cheap talking point pushed by the Trump administration. It is a reality that the left has also acknowledged.
Earlier in January, Britain’s parliament approved in a first hearing a bill drafted by Labour Party lawmakers Dame Louise Ellman and Joan Ryan that could significantly cut aid funds to the P.A. over incitement against Israelis and Jews.
In introducing the legislation, Ellman said that the minds of Palestinian children were “being poisoned” with hatred. “Five-year-olds taught the word for ‘martyr’ as part of their first lessons in Arabic. Eleven-year-olds taught that martyrdom and jihad are ‘the most important meanings of life.’ ”
The Knesset passed similar legislation in July that subtracts from tax receipts that Israel transfers to the Palestinian Authority the amount of money that the P.A. pays in rewards to terrorists, as well as pensions to the families of those who have committed acts of terror. The Israeli law is inspired by the Taylor Force Act, approved in March by Congress with strong bipartisan support, under which U.S. aid to the P.A. is withheld, if it continues subsidizing terrorism.
Often, Israel is told that it must make sacrifices for peace. In this instance, the P.A. is making a sacrifice so that it doesn’t have to make peace. Understanding the P.A.’s decision makes clear on whom the onus falls for the failure to give peace a chance.
Josh Block is CEO and president of the Israel Project.