Thursday, October 18, 2018

US cuts $200m in assistance to Palestinians


By Myriam Purtscher - August 27, 2018
TAGS:
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [UNRWA] [aid] [US foreign policy] [Hamas]

The US has announced they will cut more than $200m in aid to the West Bank and Gaza following a review initiated by President Donald Trump.

A senior state official released a statement announcing the funding originally intended for Palestine will be redirected to “high-priority projects elsewhere.”
 
“At the direction of President Trump, we have undertaken a review of US assistance to the Palestinian Authority and in the West Bank and Gaza to ensure these funds are spent in accordance with US national interests and provide value to the US taxpayer,” the statement said.
 
The Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) Executive Committee member Dr. Hanan Ashrawi has publicly criticised the funding cuts, accusing Trump’s decision as “cheap blackmail as a political tool”.
 
"There is no glory in constantly bullying and punishing a people under occupation,” Ashrawi said.
 
“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.”
 
Husam Zomlot, head of the Palestinian General Delegation to the United States also denounced the cuts in a statement in The Guardian.
 
“Weaponising humanitarian and developmental aid as political blackmail does not work… This administration is dismantling decades of US vision and engagement in Palestine,” Zomlot said.
 
The US State Department has cited Hamas - the de facto governing authority in Gaza - as part of its justification for reallocating the $200m aid funds.
 
Both Israel and the US consider Hamas a 'terrorist group’.
 
However, according to Middle East Eye, the cuts will only exacerbate the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the besieged coastal Strip, where the two million residents face dire economic hardship and living conditions.
 
The cuts also come amidst global anger after Trump’s decision to unilaterally recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last December; a move which undercut long-standing peace talks where the city’s status was to be determined as a final-status issue.
 
Economic expert from Gaza, Mohsen Abu Ramadan told Al Jazeera the aid cuts attempt to punish the PLO for not agreeing to the "deal of the century", referring to the peace plan which the US President and his team are preparing to establish in an effort to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
 
"This move is part of [a] series of decisions that have [the] aim to recognise Israeli settlements and limit funds to Palestinians,” Ramadan told Al Jazeera.
 
"It [the decision] shows that the US government wishes to weaken the PLO and support the Netanyahu government's approach to the peace process."
 
The aid cut also coincides with recent US withholding of $65m of $125m that was originally allocated for UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, of which the US is the biggest donor.

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