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Israel working with Trump administration to get U.S. money to Palestinian security services

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U.S. President Donald Trump holds a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House in 2017. (Benjamin D. Applebaum/The White House)

Israeli officials are working with the Trump administration to maintain funding for Palestinian security forces.

U.S. and Israeli officials are scrambling to work around the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act, which kicks in on Feb. 1. It would effectively end the $60 million in assistance the United States pays to the Palestinian Authority.

“We support the administration’s efforts to maintain security cooperation with the Palestinians, on the other hand, while not affecting families of terrorist victims,” an Israeli official told the JTA. Israeli security officials say the Palestinian police are critical to maintaining peace in the West Bank.

The law, passed in Congress last year, makes the Palestinian Authority and its sister organization, the Palestine Liberation Organization, liable to pay out massive rewards awarded by courts to victims of Palestinian terrorism, to be triggered as soon as Palestinians accept any aid. That prompted the Palestinian Authority to decline any aid.

Centrist pro-Israel groups backed the effort.

“U.S. support for Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation, critical in combating terror, may be halted as an unintended consequence of the new anti-terror law,” the American Jewish Committee said Thursday on Twitter. “AJC urges the administration and Congress to find a solution that maintains support while honouring the law’s objective.”

AIPAC spokesman Marshall Wittman told Jewish Insider that the lobby was still in favour of the assistance.

One of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, objected to the efforts. “It holds terrorists accountable, why is State Dept now putting PLO wishes over justice for US victims?” he said.

The government shutdown, triggered by Trump’s refusal to advance spending bills unless he gets $5.7 billion for a wall with Mexico, is frustrating the effort to figure out a fix for the law.

The Trump administration and separate laws passed in Congress last year have already slashed hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians.