Trump Cuts Humanitarian Aid for Palestinians; Has No Plan for Peace
September 19, 2018
Daniel Estrin / National Public Radio & Ali Sawafta and Maayan Lubell / Reuters
The Trump administration has confirmed it will no longer fund peace-building programs for Palestinians and Israelis -- including an interfaith youth program and a project for children with disabilities. It's the latest in a series of announcements of the US cutting hundreds of millions of dollars for Palestinians -- a move that could put "Israelis and Palestinians on a collision course for further conflict."
US Will No Longer Fund
Peace-Building Programs For Palestinians
Daniel Estrin / National Public Radio
"The only thing this administration did
since it came to office is just to take
Israelis and Palestinians off the path to peace,
off the path of the two-state solution."
-- Saeb Erekat, Palestinian chief negotiator
(September 15, 2018) -- The Trump administration has confirmed it will no longer fund peace-building programs for Palestinians and Israelis -- including an interfaith youth program and a project for children with disabilities.
It's the latest in a series of announcements of the US cutting hundreds of millions of dollars for Palestinians, with the aim of pressuring Palestinian leaders to cooperate with US efforts to broker a peace deal with Israel.
The decision, first reported Friday by the New York Times, is expected to affect a host of projects supporting Israeli and Palestinian almond farmers, young entrepreneurs, environmental activists and others.
"I continue to believe in the importance of building relationships between Israelis and Palestinians, particularly kids, but. . . . " senior US peace negotiator Jason Greenblatt tweeted, "Palestinian and Israeli kids will lose, and these programs will be meaningless, if the (Palestinian Authority) continues to condemn a (peace) plan they haven't seen & refuses to engage on it."
Palestinian leaders cut ties with the Trump administration after it recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital, a city where Palestinians also have claims.
In response to the latest funding cut announcement, senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said Saturday the US was using "sanctions and blackmail to make our people surrender" and that "clearly this administration has nothing to do with peace and making peace."
There was no immediate comment from Israeli officials.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, said cutting the money was "reprehensible."
"Congress wrote this program in a bi-partisan manner to bring together Israelis and Palestinians," Leahy told NPR. "What possible good can come from a policy that drives these people further apart? This is no way to build the trust and confidence needed for real peace in the Middle East."
In recent weeks, the US has moved to close the Palestinians' diplomatic office in Washington, and has withdrawn $200 million for Palestinian development and humanitarian projects and $300 million to the United Nations's program for Palestinian refugees.
As first reported by NPR, the US also cut $25 million for Jerusalem hospitals providing Palestinians with medical care unavailable in the West Bank and Gaza, but is continuing to fund Palestinian security forces to assist Israel in preventing attacks in the West Bank.
Advocates had been waiting to hear about one final batch of US money for Palestinians -- $10 million for programs that bring together Israelis and Palestinians for what the US describes as "people-to-people reconciliation activities."
Tim Rieser, an aide to Sen. Leahy, said Friday that officials from the US Agency for International Development, or USAID, notified Congress last week that the money cannot be spent on peace and reconciliation programs bringing Israelis together with Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza -- only on programs inside Israel for Jews and Palestinian Arab citizens.
A USAID spokesman said this was part of a $200 million cut announced in August, though Rieser said it was unclear to Congress if the "people-to-people" programs had been included in that cut.
Dave Harden, who oversaw US aid to Palestinians under the Obama administration and now directs the Georgetown Strategy Group, said this funding cut "puts Israelis and Palestinians on a collision course for further conflict."
Palestinian Official Says US
Will Never Present Middle East Peace Plan
Ali Sawafta and Maayan Lubell / Reuters
"The Kushner truth and the Netanyahu truth is that
Jerusalem is Israel's capital, no right of return to refugees,
settlements are legal, no Palestinian state on 1967 (borders)
and Gaza must be separated from the West Bank . . . ."
JERICHO, West Bank (September 15, 2018) -- The United States will not present its long-awaited plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace any time soon and is instead trying to unilaterally change the terms of reference for any future proposal, a senior Palestinian official said on Saturday.
Echoing deep scepticism among the Palestinians, Arab countries and analysts, Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian chief negotiator, said that the Trump administration was siding with Israel on the core issues of the decades-old conflict, burying all chances for Middle East peace.
"I don't think they will ever introduce a plan," Erekat said in an interview with Reuters in Jericho. "The whole world is rejecting their ideas. They are already implementing their plan by changing the terms of reference," he said.
Doubts have mounted over whether Trump's administration can secure what he has called the "ultimate deal" since December, when the US President recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital and then moved the US Embassy there.
Jerusalem is one of the major issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Both sides claim it as a capital. Trump's move outraged the Palestinians, who have since boycotted Washington's peace efforts, led by the US president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
The United States has also cut off aid to the Palestinians and to UNRWA -- the UN agency for Palestinian refugees -- and has ordered the PLO's office in Washington shut, further angering Palestinian leaders.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday welcomed the latest US moves.
Erekat said it appeared that the United States has accepted Israel's positions on other main issues of the conflict, and not just Jerusalem, including the fate of millions of Palestinian refugees from wars dating to 1948 and Israeli settlements on land Palestinians envisage as part of their future independent state.
But Trump's Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt told Reuters in that Washington was prepared for Israeli criticism of the plan and that both sides can expect parts they will like and dislike. He provided no further details.
Greenblatt, a chief architect of the initiative, said US negotiators had entered the "pre-launch phase" of the plan, despite the boycott by Palestinian leaders, but declined to specify a time frame.
The Palestinians want to establish a state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. Israel captured those territories in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed East Jerusalem in a move not recognized internationally. It regards all of the city as its eternal and indivisible capital.
US officials have so far been non-committal about whether their plan would endorse the creation of a Palestinian state beside the state of Israel -- the goal of previous rounds of negotiations, the last of which collapsed in 2014.
"They are telling us 'peace based on the truth'," Erekat said.
"The Kushner truth and the Netanyahu truth is that Jerusalem is Israel's capital, no right of return to refugees, settlements are legal, no Palestinian state on 1967 (borders) and Gaza must be separated from the West Bank and this is absolutely unacceptable," Erekat said.
Palestinians have limited self-rule in the West Bank, but Israel controls most of that territory and has expanded its settlements there. Most countries deem the settlements illegal, though Israel disputes this. It withdrew its troops and settlers from Gaza, which is ruled by the Islamist Hamas movement.
"The only thing this administration did since it came to office is just to take Israelis and Palestinians off the path to peace, off the path of the two-state solution," Erekat said.
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