The US State Department announced on Friday that it would be cutting $200 million in funding to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, sparking outrage among Palestinian officials, who are still reeling from US cuts to UNRWA earlier this year.
Officials reportedly told US lawmakers that after review, the $200m in US assistance to the Palestinian Authority (PA) for projects in the West Bank and Gaza would be re-routed to “high-priority projects elsewhere,” according to Reuters.
Reuters added that the order came from President Donald Trump, and that State Department officials did not confirm where the money would be going to.
While local and international media reported that the State Department made the announcement to lawmakers prior to journalists, as of Saturday, the agency had yet to post its official statement on its website, and has made no mention of the cuts on social media.
Palestinian officials came out in full force against the decision, which comes amid a steadily worsening relationship with the PA, which nosedived in December, following Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Since the decision, Palestinian leaders have suspended contacts with the administration, and have repeatedly accused the US of being an unfair arbiter of the peace process — despite Trump’s long held position that he can implement the “ultimate peace plan” in the region.
Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, member of the Executive Committee of the PLO, released a statement following Friday’s decision, calling the move “cheap blackmail” and “coercion,” saying that “the Palestinian people and leadership will not be intimidated,” and “the rights of the Palestinian people are not for sale.”
She went on to say “there is no glory in constantly bullying and punishing a people under occupation,” adding that the US administration is “colluding with the Israeli occupation and its theft of land and resources.”
Husam Zomlot, the head of the PLO General Delegation to the US, also condemned the move, saying that the current Trump administration is “dismantling decades of US vision and engagement in Palestine.”
“After Jerusalem and UNRWA, this is another confirmation of abandoning the two state solution and fully embracing Netanyahu’s anti peace agenda,” Zomlot said, referring to decision in December to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and its January aid cuts to UNRWA, leaving the humanitarian organization responsible for Palestinian refugees in dire straits.
Friday’s decision comes amidst an already worsening crisis in the occupied territory, particular in Gaza, where some 170 Palestinians have been killed and thousands more injured since Great March of Return protests began five months ago.
Last month, chaos erupted in Gaza after UNRWA announced that it would be laying off hundreds of its employees as a direct result of not being able to recover from the massive US budget cuts this year.
Meanwhile, the UN reported last week that aid funding for the occupied Palestinian territory was at an “all-time low.”
So far, only a quarter of the nearly $540 million needed in funding this year has been received, according to the report, which said that the crisis is largely due to US funding cuts.
Friday’s cuts come only a few days after Trump said that there would be something “very good” coming for the Palestinians during a rally in West Virginia.
“We took it off the table. In past negotiations, they never got past Jerusalem. Now Israel will have to pay a higher price, because it’s off the table. The Palestinians will get something very good, because it’s their turn next,” Trump said.