WASHINGTON - The Trump administration has decided to cut $10 million of foreign aid money that was supposed to go to supporting co-existence groups working on the ground in Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The money was already approved by the U.S. Congress, but the administration vetoed its transfer to the organizations that were supposed to be supported by it.
The decision wasfirst reported on Friday by the New York Times. President Trump’s Special Envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Jason Greenblatt, later confirmed it on his twitter account, and tried to put the blame for the decision on the Palestinian Authority, even though most of the organizations that will lose their support have no direct relationship to the PA.
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The decision is the latest in a string of similar cuts initiated by the administration. Last week, the administration cut $25 million from hospitals in East Jerusalem that serve the city’s Palestinian residents, as well as Palestinians from Gaza and the West Bank. These hospitals had previously been praised by Greenblatt for their work, and just like the co-existence groups that will suffer from yesterday’s decision, they are independent from the Palestinian Authority.
Previously, the administrationcut hundreds of millions of dollars from UNRWA, the UN agency assisting Palestinian refugees and their descendants, and an additional $200 million from projects that were supported by the U.S. agency for international development in the West Bank and Gaza.
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The only part of the American aid to the Palestinians that the administration did not cut, was the approximately $60 million that goes directly to the Palestinian Authority, in order to support its security forces. Those security forces work in coordination with Israeli security forces to thwart terror attacks in the West Bank. Their budget was transferred to Ramallah in July.
Friday’s decision to cut funding from the co-existence groups was denounced by the Alliance for Middle East Peace, an umbrella organization of groups that work to promote dialogue and contacts between Israeli and Palestinian civilians. One of the organization’s directors wrote that after cutting funding for Palestinian cancer patients, the administration was now going after “kids that play football with Israelis.”
Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, told the New York Times on Friday that these recent decisions will in fact increase the likelihood for reaching peace. The headline of his interview with the paper was “Kushner says punishing Palestinians won’t hurt chance for peace deal.”