The Trump administration has decided to cut more than $200 million in bilateral aid to the Palestinians, following a review of the funding for projects in the West Bank and Gaza, the State Department said Friday. The department notified Congress of the decision in a brief, three-paragraph notice sent first to lawmakers and then to reporters. It said the administration will redirect the money to "high priority projects elsewhere." The move comes as President Trump and his Middle East pointmen, Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, staff up their office to prepare for the rollout of a much-vaunted but as yet unclear peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians. More from the AP:
- From the department's mouth: "At the direction of President Trump, we have undertaken a review of US assistance to the Palestinian Authority and in the West Bank and Gaza to ensure these funds are spent in accordance with US national interests and provide value to the US taxpayer. ... This decision [to redirect more than $200 million] 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 notice said, without providing additional details.
- One sticking point: One main issue the US has had with support for the Palestinian Authority had been its stipends paid to the families of Palestinians killed, injured, or jailed for attacks on Israel. Israel and the Trump administration have repeatedly demanded that those payments from a so-called "martyrs' fund" be halted because they encourage terrorism. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has refused to do so.
- The reaction: The Palestine Liberation Organization quickly denounced the decision, calling it "the use of cheap blackmail as a political tool. The Palestinian people and leadership will not be intimidated and will not succumb to coercion."
- The impact: The loss of the assistance is almost certain to further provoke the Palestinians against the Trump peace plan. The Palestinian leadership has been openly hostile to any proposal from the administration, citing what it says is a pro-Israel bias, notably after Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December and moved the US embassy there from Tel Aviv in May. The Palestinian Authority and Abbas broke off contact with the US after the Jerusalem announcement.
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