This Friday the Trump administration announced a $200 million reduction in Palestinian aid for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The administration claims they made this decision while evaluating the implications and difficulties of providing aid to the Gaza Strip, a state under control of Hamas, whom the U.S. considers a terrorist organization. The State Department says that these funds will be reallocated to unnamed “higher-priority projects elsewhere.” The decision is unlikely to be reversed as the end of the fiscal year, September 30th, quickly approaches.
This announcement follows a series of decisions that have caused Palestinian leaders to lose faith in the U.S.’ commitment to a fair peace agreement between Palestine and Israel. In December the Trump administration officially recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Then in January of this year, the U.S. cut it’s funding to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) by 83%. The reduction was devastating since the UNRWA is the primary relief agency in Gaza providing food aid, medical services, and education.
Critics and commentators called these most recently declared aid cuts politically unwise. Some say that they will further destabilize the region, effectively empowering Hamas leadership. Moreover, they appear to be part of a “bullying and bludgeoning” strategy to force Palestine to return to the negotiating table with Israel. The head of the Palestinian Authority, Hossam Zomlot reacted to the aid cuts saying, “Weaponizing humanitarian and developmental aid as political blackmail does not work.”
The consequences of these budget cuts will be grave. Economic experts attest that there will be an enormous impact on current aid projects. The capacity of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the primary body of U.S. foreign assistance, will be greatly reduced. As result, immediate developmental needs such as water and sanitation, education, and health, and long-term projects including debt relief, economic stimulus, and governance will be hindered. Other analyst are more concerned with job loss. Palestinians employed by defunded USAID projects will loose their jobs, further contributing to the states rising unemployment.
In the coming weeks the State Department will continue to decide on the fate of almost $3 billion worth foreign aid projects. In light of last weeks decision to cancel $230 million reserved by Congress to help rebuild demolished cities in Syria, and this most recent announcement on Palestinian aid, a precedent has been set. As more foreign aid projects are to be financially abandoned, and ultimately discarded, the U.S. has drastically changed its image as a global leader.
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