Nov 6, 2019

Trump told officials that Netanyahu should pay security aid to Palestinians

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Several months ago, President Trump rejected a request by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to allow U.S. aid to be transferred to Palestinian security forces and told aides that Netanyahu should pay for it, U.S. officials told me.

Why it matters: In the last two years, the Trump administration has gradually cut all funding to the Palestinians, with the latest cut taking place at the end of January. One of the key players in encouraging the funding cut was Netanyahu.

  • Israel asked the White House to cut funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) over the agency’s alleged bias against Israel.
  • Netanyahu also requested that the U.S. cut funding to the Palestinian Authority over the alleged payment of salaries to terrorists.

Behind the scenes: According to U.S. officials, the State Department realized around six months ago that $12 million in aid to the Palestinian security forces had not been cut but was also never transferred to the Palestinians.

  • The U.S. officials said that Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer and other Israeli officials told their American counterparts they wanted the money to be transferred in order to help the Palestinian security forces, which work hand in hand with the Israelis in the West Bank.
  • The Israelis were told that Trump’s policy was to cut the funding to the Palestinian Authority, meaning this was a decision that would have to be cleared by the president.

Senior White House officials raised the issue of the $12 million with the president, U.S. officials told me. Trump pushed back on transferring the money and said the policy was to stop the aid to the Palestinians as long as they continued refusing to engage with the administration.

  • The U.S. officials told me Trump’s aides wanted the Israelis to ask that the money be transferred and stress that it was "very important for Netanyahu."
  • Trump wasn’t convinced and told his aides: "If it is that important to Netanyahu, he should pay the Palestinians $12 million." The money was never transferred.

What they're saying: The White House refrained from commenting on this account but didn’t deny it. A U.S. official told me that as of January 2019, the U.S. is not providing any assistance in the West Bank and Gaza Strip at the request of the Palestinian Authority due to the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act of 2018.

  • The U.S. official said: "All U.S. security assistance to the PA has ceased. The U.S. security coordinator and his team continue to conduct a security cooperation-only mission. These activities are not funded with foreign assistance resources."

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