By Jackson Lied
The United States, in accordance with its current administration’s policies, has begun the process to ensure Palestine stops receiving U.S. aid. Palestinians had previously been allotted approximately 200 million dollars of aid with the goal to foster cooperative programs between Palestinians and Israelis. Now, the Trump administration wishes to see all U.S. financial support to Palestine cease.
This shift in policy came about two weeks ago, and it was reported by The New York Times on Tuesday, September 14 that the U.S. Agency for International Development would stop funding programs going towards Palestinian and Israeli civilian cooperation. This includes all programs that involve Palestinian citizens except the programs which are on multi-year grants. However, even those programs will not likely see a renewal in their grants once they have expired.
The push to end U.S. aid to Palestine is coming from Jared Kushner, White House advisor and son-in-law of President Trump, and not from the individual organizations providing aid such as U.S. A.I.D. In fact, U.S. A.I.D., though it can no longer fund Palestinian civilians, is still offering aid to the programs that encourage dialogue and cooperation between Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs. According to The New York Times, Tim Rieser, foreign policy aide to Senator Patrick Leahy said that, “essentially, U.S.A.I.D. was faced with the choice of shutting down the program and losing the funds, or keeping something going.”
Looking forward, this shift in aid will have personal and political effects for the Palestinian people. Many Palestinians who worked for U.S. funded aid programs are losing their source of income. Regarding this issue, Al Jazeera told the story of Nermin Saydam who had recently acquired housing and now may be jobless and in thousands of dollars in debt.
In addition to having personal finance effects, the cessation of aid will take a toll on hospitals serving Palestinian patients. The Times of Israel cites Bassem Abu Libdeh as saying that the U.S. provided the funds to cover 40 percent of costs for six hospitals in East Jerusalem. These hospitals served many Palestinians in fields ranging from general healthcare to cancer treatments.
The more political aftermath will be the continuing retreat of hospitality between Palestine and the U.S. The necessary amiability for further discussion and diplomacy to continue is already being hindered by the United States’ decision to acknowledge Jerusalem as the capital of Israel as well as other recent policies that the Palestinians have negatively reacted to.
Al Jazeera reports that Saeb Ekarat, Security General of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, said, “[Washington] had abandoned its international obligation.” Whereas Kushner told The New York Times on Sept. 13, “Nobody is entitled to America’s foreign aid.” Neither the U.S. nor Palestine seems to want to budge from their respective stance, despite President Trump expressing that he is withholding aid for the purpose to bring Palestine “to the table,” reports the Times of Israel
Other nations, however, seem to disagree with the U.S. and its position. The United Kingdom in particular may attempt to help fill the gap that the U.S. is now leaving behind. On the topic, Jeremy Hunt, the U.K. foreign secretary, was reported by the Financial Times as saying, “We don’t agree with the American Administration’s decision on the issue… We’ll be talking to other donors as well to see if we can make up the gap in funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.” Then, the U.K. promptly agreed to raise its funding to UNRWA for Palestine refugees by 7 million pounds.
In addition, Germany has agreed to increase its contributions as well. This is all in line with the criticism European powers and other UN members have had for the United States’ unique policy and actions towards the Israel-Palestine conflict as a whole.