Trump's Budget Plan Includes $175m That Could Go to Supporting Mideast Peace Plan

Diplomatic Progress Fund, significantly smaller than American aid to Palestinians in previous years, will provide 'flexibility' in advancing regional agreement

File photo: U.S. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump disembark from Air Force One as they return to Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, March 10, 2019.
Mike Theiler/Reuters

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration’s budget plan for fiscal year 2020 includes $175 million that could support its Middle East peace plan, according to official documents released on Monday by the State Department and the White House.

The documents show that the administration is planning to create a “Diplomatic Progress Fund” that will receive $175 million, and that this sum would be available to support the peace plan, if it is indeed presented after the upcoming Israeli election.

>> Kushner tries to win support for peace plan in Arab world – and inflames Israeli right | Analysis 

The White House’s budget plan explains that the “Diplomatic Progress Fund” will provide “flexibility” in case there is progress towards regional peace.

One option mentioned in the document is that this sum would be invested in assistance to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Currently, the budget plan includes no civilian assistance to the Palestinians.

The $175 million sum is significantly lower than the previous level of American aid to the Palestinians, which was severely cut by the Trump administration last year.

The special fund could also allow the administration to “reward” Arab countries for improving their ties with Israel or supporting the administration’s peace plan, although it is hard to see any Arab country changing its policy over such a low sum of money.

Egypt and Jordan, Israel’s neighbors that both suffer from serious economic troubles, will likely oppose the peace plan, while wealthy Gulf states courted by the administration don’t need the money, and their support or opposition to the plan will be determined by other factors.

In addition to the $175 million that will go to the special fund, the budget plan also includes $35 million for the Palestinian Authority’s security forces.

In 2019, security assistance to the PA was the only kind of aid to the Palestinians that the administration didn’t cut, mainly because of requests by Israeli security officials, who highlighted the importance of Israel’s ongoing coordination with these forces in the fight against terrorism.

The inclusion of funding for the PA forces in the new budget shows that the administration still intends to somehow overcome the complications caused by the “Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act,” a law passed last year that makes it very risky for the PA to accept any form of American financial support. There have been attempts for months to amend the law, so far with no success.