US Cuts More Than USD 200 Million In Aid To Palestinians

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US cut in aid amounts to ‘cheap blackmail’: Palestinians

WASHINGTON — The United States has said that it had cancelled more than USD 200 million in aid for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, leading their ambassador to accuse President Donald Trump’s administration of being “anti-peace”.

A senior State Department official said yesterday that the decision, made “at the direction of the president”, came after a review of aid programs to the Palestinian territories. The funding previously allocated for programs in the West Bank and Gaza will “now address high-priority projects elsewhere”, said the official.

The move “takes into account the challenges the international community faces in providing assistance in Gaza, where Hamas control endangers the lives of Gaza’s citizens and degrades an already dire humanitarian and economic situation,” he said.

In January, the United States had already made drastic cuts to its contribution to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA. Relations between the US administration and the Palestinian Authority took a nosedive after Trump announced the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The Palestinians have suspended contacts with the administration and consider that it can no longer play a mediation role in the Middle East peace process. “This administration is dismantling decades of US vision and engagement in Palestine,” Husam Zomlot, head of the Palestinian General Delegation to the United States said in a statement.

“After Jerusalem and UNRWA, this is another confirmation of abandoning the two-state solution and fully embracing (Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin) Netanyahu’s anti-peace agenda.” 

The decision to cut Palestinian funding comes amid a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which has seen a surge of violence since Palestinian protests began in March. At least 171 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire during demonstrations near the border with Israel. The US administration is pressing on with work on a peace plan that has been under discussion for months, leaving a vacuum in the Middle East in the meantime.

“Weaponising humanitarian and developmental aid as political blackmail does not work,” Zomlot said. “Only a recommitment from this administration to the long-held US policy of achieving peace through the two-state solution on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem, the capital of the state of Palestine, and respecting international resolutions and law will provide a way forward.” 

Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy accused the White House of engaging in a “series of provocative and harmful acts” instead of coming up with a coherent policy to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Trump has tasked his son-in-law Jared Kushner and lawyer Jason Greenblatt to draft the peace proposals, saying earlier this week that there would be something “very good” for the Palestinians.

The Palestinians see the eastern part of the disputed city as the capital of their future state.

US cut in aid amounts to ‘cheap blackmail’: Palestinians

US President Donald Trump’s administration is resorting to “cheap blackmail” against the Palestinians with its decision to cut more than USD 200 million in aid for the West Bank and Gaza Strip, a senior Palestinian official said today.

A State Department official said yesterday that the decision, made “at the direction of the president,” came after a review of aid programmes to the Palestinian territories. The funding would “now address high-priority projects elsewhere”.

Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s (PLO) executive committee, hit back, saying: “The US administration is demonstrating the use of cheap blackmail as a political tool.

“The Palestinian people and leadership will not be intimidated and will not succumb to coercion. The rights of the Palestinian people are not for sale,” Ashrawi countered.

In January, the United States had already made drastic cuts to its contribution to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA.

Relations between the US administration and the Palestinian Authority took a nosedive after Trump last December decided to recognise the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The Palestinians have suspended contacts with Washington and consider that it can no longer be an impartial mediator in the Middle East peace process.

After the latest blow, Ashrawi insisted that the Palestinians, living under Israeli occupation, would not be coerced into surrendering their rights.

“There is no glory in constantly bullying and punishing a people under occupation,” she wrote in a statement.

“The US administration has already demonstrated meanness of spirit in its collusion with the Israeli occupation and its theft of land and resources; now it is exercising economic meanness by punishing the Palestinian victims of this occupation.”

In an initial reaction on Friday, the PLO’s representative in Washington, Husam Zomlot, said the US administration was “dismantling decades of US vision and engagement in Palestine”.

“After Jerusalem and UNRWA, this is another confirmation of abandoning the two-state solution and fully embracing (Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin) Netanyahu’s anti-peace agenda,” he said.

The decision to cut Palestinian funding comes amid a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which has seen a surge of violence since Palestinian protests erupted in March.

At least 172 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, the vast majority of them during demonstrations near the border.

 

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