TEL AVIV – President Donald Trump ordered that more than $200 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority be cut, a State Department official said on Friday.
The announcement comes on the heels of a review examining U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority.
According to the official, Washington seeks “to ensure these funds are spent in accordance with US national interests and provide value to the US taxpayer.”
“As a result of that review,” the official continued, “at the direction of the president, we will redirect more than $200 million in [fiscal year 2017] economic support funds originally planned for programs in the West Bank and Gaza. Those funds will now address high-priority projects elsewhere.”
The terror group Hamas’ control of the Gaza Strip was partly to blame, the State Department official said. The measure “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.
The Trump administration has already cut aid to the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.
In January, Trump slammed the PA over its refusal to deal with the US, saying his administration should not continue to give “massive payments” to the Palestinians when they are “no longer willing to talk peace.”
“We pay the Palestinians HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect,” Trump tweeted. “They don’t even want to negotiate a long overdue peace treaty with Israel. We have taken Jerusalem, the toughest part of the negotiation, off the table, but Israel, for that, would have had to pay more.”
Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner is reportedly pushing to get rid of the refugee status of millions of Palestinians as well as shut down UNRWA.
The PLO’s envoy to Washington responded to the latest cut by saying that the Trump administration was “weaponizing” humanitarian aid.
“This administration is dismantling decades of US vision and engagement in Palestine,” Husam Zomlot 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,” he added in reference to Trump’s formal recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the subsequent transfer of the U.S. embassy there.
“Weaponizing humanitarian and developmental aid as political blackmail does not work,” Zomlot said.
“Only a recommitment from this administration,” he added, “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.”
Meanwhile PLO Executive Committee member Dr. Hanan Ashrawi said the Trump 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.”
On Friday, Pierre Kraehenbuehl, the head of UNRWA, implied that the U.S. aid cuts were in order to punish the Palestinians over their reaction of the U.S.’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“One cannot simply wish 5 million people away,” Kraehenbuehl said.