US freeze on Palestinian aid threatening coexistence of humanitarian efforts

Palestinian officials say that local humanitarian groups who work with the United States Agency for International Development have scaled back their activities in recent months and are preparing to fire employees and shut down projects as a result of the Trump administration’s total freeze of financial aid to the Palestinians.

The funding freeze has also hurt local companies that USAID uses as contractors for economic projects, as well as Jewish-Arab coexistence groups that rely on American financial support for their activities, according to the officials who spoke with Haaretz.

The U.S. Congress approved an aid budget of $250 million to the Palestinians for the current fiscal year. This money includes $35 million to support the Palestinian Authority’s security forces and $215 million intended for economic development, infrastructure projects, humanitarian assistance and an additional $10 million for coexistence programs that comes from a different line item in the budget.

This entire sum has been held up by the Trump administration, which has been conducting a “review” of Palestinian aid since the beginning of the year. It has no deadline for ending that review or releasing the money.

Western and Arab diplomats who spoke with Haaretz said they believed the freeze is meant to pressure Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to end his boycott of the Trump administration, which started after the president’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel last December. The administration, these diplomats added, want Abbas to return to negotiations with Trump’s peace team – led by his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, and special envoy Jason Greenblatt.

[Haaretz]

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