TEL AVIV – Amid fraying relations, the Trump administration is investigating an overhaul of the entire Palestinian aid budget rather than being satisfied with cuts to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, an Israeli news broadcaster reported Wednesday.
According to the Hadashot news TV station, which cited unnamed White House officials, the $100 million cut to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) at the beginning of the month might only be the start.
U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has been vocal about her support for cutting aid to the Palestinian Authority in response to its “pay-for-slay” program awarding terrorists and their families salaries, as well as its general attitude to the U.S., which includes severing ties after President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Other officials are opposed to the cuts. Among them are Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis, who believe that doing so would only worsen the situation in the region, especially in neighboring Jordan which is home to hundreds of thousands of so-called Palestinian refugees.
Earlier this month, Trump sparked outrage from the Palestinian leadership when he asked why the U.S. should make “any of these massive future payments” to the Palestinians.
Trump tweeted, “we pay the Palestinians HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect. They don’t even want to negotiate a long overdue peace treaty with Israel” and added “with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?”
“We have taken Jerusalem, the toughest part of the negotiation, off the table, but Israel, for that, would have had to pay more,” he continued.
In a two hour address to the Palestine Liberation Organization, Abbas cursed Trump over the tweet, saying, “May your house come to ruin.”
According to Hadashot, if the Palestinians were willing to reinstate the U.S. as the main broker for peace, the State Department would take budget cuts off the agenda. For its part, Israel is not in favor of major budget cuts since doing so may lead to more violence, the report said.
Last year the U.S. gave about $700 million to the Palestinians, almost half of which went to UNRWA. The U.S. is UNRWA’s single largest donor.
The deputy chief of PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party said this week that the U.S. has never given anything of “substance” to the Palestinians.
“Recently, we were forced to review all of our relations with the American administrations in recent years, and not just the Trump administration,” Mahmoud al-Aloul told the London-based Pan-Arab daily Al Quds Al Arabi. “We assessed that nothing good will come from them for the Palestinian people and the nation, and this is completely clear.”
“With all their might, they support [the Palestinians’] enemy that is occupying their lands,” he said.