U.S. State Department Faces Cuts, Israeli-Palestinian Peace Programming Untouched

In proposed budget, 40 percent of world 'reconciliation programs,' including water sanitation and efforts to combat child marriage, to be dedicated to peace efforts between Israelis and Palestinians

Former United States Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power with former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro visiting the bilingual school Hand in Hand in Jerusalem, January 2016.
Matty Stern / U.S. Embassy Tel A

The projected U.S. State Department and Foreign Operations budget for 2018 includes a deep $5.6 billion cut in funding, as presented by the House Appropriations Committee.

One policy issue that won't be affected by cuts, however, is peace efforts between Israelis and Palestinians. Out of the entire "reconciliation programs" budget of $26 million around the world, addressing issues such as water sanitation and combatting child marriage, the bill plans to direct almost 40 percent of the budget "for reconciliation activists between Israelis and Palestinians." The amount, $10 million, is the same amount appropriated to the cause of peace in the region for 2017.

The budget plan, in which the department will lose 11 percent of its funding, must still pass the Senate, where it is likely to face opposition. Leading senators from both parties have expressed strong opposition in recent months to deep cuts in the United States' foreign aid budgets, and to downsizing the State Department.

In April, internal documents leaked to Foreign Policy magazine showed that while the Trump administration is planning massive cuts in foreign aid to numerous U.S. allies around the world, including in the Middle East, the administration was planning to slightly increase its support for the Palestinian Authority. In addition, the State Department clarified that none of the planned budget cuts will have any effect on U.S. security aid to Israel. 

The process of agreeing on the department's final budget for the 2018 fiscal year is still far from finished, with the Senate still to weigh in. If the Senate fails to reach agreement or a compromise on the issue, there are two possibilities - either a resolution to extend the 2017 budget levels will pass, or the government could shut down until a solution is found.