Millions of Palestinians may be at risk of a detrimental humanitarian crisis following the announcement of a possible aid cut by its largest aid assistance provider – the United States. On 6 December 2017, Trump released a statement recognizing the extremely sensitive holy site of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city. Consequently, the Palestinian Authority announced its refusal to cooperate alongside the U.S. during peace negotiations with Israel. President Trump released a statement condemning Palestine’s lack of willingness to find peace, citing that the U.S. pays the Palestinians “hundreds of millions of dollars.” The prospect of leaving approximately 4.9 million Palestinians without crucial aid has resulted in deadly protests throughout the occupied Palestinian territories.
Amidst President Trump’s announcement, the Palestinian Authority has broadcasted that they would “no longer accept” any peace strategies proposed by the U.S. According to News24, senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi’s response to Trump’s actions was recognizing the threat as an attempt of “blackmail” and an act of sabotage by the U.S. president in the “search for peace, freedom and justice.” Although Ms. Haley, U.S. ambassador to the UN, did not reference the United Nations Relief Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) directly when stating to the UN that the president “does not want to give any additional funding,” The New York Times reports that it is understood that the agency, although never involved in peace negotiations, would be considered for cuts.
Following the announcement of Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a large majority of UN member nations have condemned the U.S., declaring the U.S. president’s actions as “null and void.” A large cause of the controversy arising from Trump’s threat of aid cuts is the growing aid budget delivered to Israel, with Israel receiving an annual military aid of approximately $3.1 billion, which is set to increase to $3.8 billion under a ten-year agreement orchestrated by the Obama administration. If funds were to be cut, UNRWA would be unable to continue its essential efforts in the region, including the provision of healthcare facilities, education for refugee children, and funding for Palestinian victims of Syria’s civil war.
After the Six-Day War of 1967, Israel has continued to occupy the territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip – territories recognized by 135 UN member nations as occupied Palestinian Territories. The U.S. has been a vital aid provider to the Palestinian Authority, delivering crucial budgetary and security assistance in fields such as economic growth, infrastructure, humanitarian assistance and governance. According to USAID, the U.S. has provided more than $5.5 billion to the Palestinian Authority since 1994. Moreover, an additional $304 million has been contributed by the U.S. towards the UN’s West Bank and Gaza Strip humanitarian programmes. Regardless of the U.S.’s longstanding loyalty, President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city undermines the legitimacy of the Palestinian Territories and the struggle for peace that both Israel and Palestinians have fought for since the war of 1967.
Trump’s threat to cut aid directed to Palestinian Territories has presented many potential consequences. Other than diverging from decades of U.S. policy on the Israel-Palestine conflict, Al Jazeera reports that Trump’s announcement has result in the eruption of deadly protests across occupied Palestinian territories. The effects of the protests and Trump’s announcement are being felt across the region, with major demonstrations in support of the Palestinians arising across the Muslim world. Furthermore, the U.S. risks losing its strategic position as a ‘mediating’ actor in the peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, consequently preventing Trump’s dream of achieving the “ultimate deal.” Ultimately, it is safe to suggest that President Trump’s actions could perpetuate a humanitarian catastrophe that may be felt not only by the already vulnerable Palestinian population, but also by other populations throughout the region.
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