US Cuts More Than $200 Million in Aid to Palestine, What is the Impact?
On Friday the U.S. State Department announced that Washington would cut more than $200 million in aid to Palestine. A senior official in the State Department said that the funds which were initially planned for projects in the Gaza and the West Bank would be used for “other high priority projects elsewhere.”
The State Department cited the presence of Hamas as the reason behind the aid cut. The U.S. and Israel have branded Hamas a terrorist group.
“For far too long, Gaza has lurched from crisis to crisis, sustained by emergency appeals and one-time caravans of aid, without dealing with the root cause: Hamas leadership is holding the Palestinians of Gaza captive. This problem must be recognized and resolved or we will witness yet another disastrous cycle,” White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and other top administration officials wrote last month in The Washington Post.
The announcement came while Palestine’s leaders were in a disagreement with the White House due to the former’s effort to boycott peace plans following President Donald Trump’s policy to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Tension has been increasing since the U.S. relocated its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem last May.
The status of Jerusalem is one of the biggest obstacles in a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine. The latter has claimed East Jerusalem as the future capital of Palestine, while the Jewish state said that Israel and Jerusalem are inseparable.
It is Not the First Time That Washington Has Frozen Funds to Palestine
Last January, the U.S. withheld aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) worth $65 million. The UNRWA and Palestine warned the aid cut could worsen the situation in the Gaza Strip, which has been under a blockade since 2007 imposed by Israel and Egypt. The blockade aims to restrict the activities of Hamas leaders.
“This decision 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,” the State Department official stated.
National Security Adviser John Bolton said this week that the UNRWA is a failed mechanism that violates an international law standard about the status of a refugee.
UNRWA was set up in 1949 after the first Arab-Israel war and has provided aid to around five million Palestinian refugees. The body also runs 711 schools attended by 526,000 refugee kids in the Palestinian territories and neighboring countries such as Lebanon and Jordan.
The Impact of Aid Cut to Palestine
The cut in the U.S. aid will leave people in Gaza working for aid projects jobless. Many Palestinians will also no longer be able to buy food that is commonly bought using U.S.-financed vouchers.
“Everything we needed for the home they gave us. May God bless them,” Manal Fasih, a Palestinian woman said.
Jordan warned that the fund shortage faced by the UNRWA could have a devastating impact on the lives of millions of refugees in the region. According to UNRWA data, Jordan hosts more than 2 million registered Palestine refugees.
Before the announcement of the U.S. aid cut, a senior official at the U.N. urged international donors to boost aid for the Gaza Strip, warning that medicine and food supplies in the area have run out quickly
Rosemary DiCarlo, U.N. Deputy Secretary for Political Affairs, expressed her concerns over recent clashes when HAMAS launched a missile targeting Israel and Israel’s military attacked Palestinians’ protesters.
Last week she urged countries to not hold desperately needed humanitarian supplies “hostage to political and security developments.”
She told the U.N. Security Council that funding for emergency fuel to keep 250 hospitals, water and sanitation facilities operating at minimum levels in Gaza had run out. She also expressed concern over “the dangerously short supply of essential medicines, with 40 percent of essential drugs completely depleted.”
Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee, expressed his anger at the State Department announcement and accused the Trump administration of using the aid cut to intimidate Palestinians.
“The rights of the Palestinian people are not for sale,” said Ashrawi in a statement. “There is no glory in constantly bullying and punishing a people under occupation. The US 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.”
U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy also slammed Trump’s policy.
“Inhabitants of Gaza are already suffering severe hardships under the tyranny of Hamas and border restrictions imposed by Israel. It is the Palestinian people, virtual prisoners in an increasingly volatile conflict, who will most directly suffer the consequences of this callous and ill-advised attempt to respond to Israel’s security concerns,” Leahy said.