The US has dried up one of the last pools of aid money to Palestinians with its latest announcement in a string of massive Palestinian funding cuts.
By: Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
After the American administration ordered the USAID agency to cease its $10 million Conflict Management and Mitigation Program, which funneled money to Palestinian organizations, funding for security operations and multi-year programs may be the only US aid to Palestinians that remains.
AFP reported that a US embassy official said that the percentage that was to go to Arabs in Judea, Samaria and Gaza would be “redirected” to “enhance” programs for Israeli Jews and Arabs alone. How much money that means, and to which programs, remains unknown.
According to the New York Times, this was the last aid money still left in America’s 2017 budget for Palestinian civilians, although money for Palestinian security operations was kept intact, as were funds that were promised in multi-year programs.
This is in line with the administration’s decision last month to “redirect” some $200 million that had been given annually in bilateral aid to Palestinians in Gaza, Judea and Samaria, and another $25 million to Palestinian hospitals, including in eastern Jerusalem.
And all this happened right after President Trump turned off the remaining $300 million spigot in contributions to UNRWA, the United Nations agency set up to aid Palestinians refugees and all of their descendants throughout the Middle East. Critics maintain that UNRWA’s policy’s exaggerate the number of “refugees” to over five million people since Israel’s establishment, in contrast to the actual number of refugees created in the war of independence, which number in the tens of thousands.
This steady chopping off of funding is largely seen as a pressure tactic by the US administration to get the Palestinian Authority (PA) to finally sit down and negotiate with the Israelis so that the president’s team can finally unveil its “deal of the century” Mideast peace plan.
With regard to the elimination of funding, Jared Kushner – a key proponent of the aid cuts – told the Times recently, “Nobody is entitled to America’s foreign aid.”
The US has been by far the largest donor to the Palestinians over decades, but President Trump has made it clear on many different issues that just because something was done in a certain way for years doesn’t mean that it should keep being done that way – especially if there are no results in favor of American interests.
Trump reportedly told American Jewish leaders before the Jewish New Year that he had communicated to the Palestinians, “You’ll get money, but we’re not paying you until we make a deal. If we don’t make a deal, we’re not paying.”
PA President Mahmoud Abbas and almost all senior members of his government have rejected working with the American team since the US declared Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital last December, saying that US actions have proven it to be firmly on Israel’s side, thereby making them “part of the problem instead of the solution.”
And in public, at least, the steady slashing of aid has made them even more defiant, not less, as they demand that the rest of the world step in to make up the shortfall.
The PA is not just grasping at straws, as the issue of aid has its supporters, even in Congress, who believe that Trump’s path is the wrong way to go about trying to settle the conflict.
Tim Reiser, for example, foreign policy aide to Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, who set up the conflict management program, said his boss was vehemently opposed to the move.
“Senator Leahy regards the decision to cut off funding for [Judea an Samaria] and Gaza as a sign that this White House has failed at diplomacy,” he said to the Times. “This is not a partisan view. It’s the view of those who recognize that you don’t advance the cause of peace by cutting off programs that are designed to promote tolerance, understanding and address shared problems.”