PRESIDENT Donald Trump has been as good as his word — and slashed aid to the Palestinians by half.
America will still give a United Nations agency $60 million for Palestinians . . . but will withhold another $65 million “for future consideration”.
The decision is likely to compound the difficulty in reviving peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians and to further undermine Arabs' faith that America can act as an impartial arbitrator.
Trump had threatened in a tweet to cut millions in contributions in order to force Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to the table to hash out a peace deal with Israel.
The dramatic slashing of aid to the UN Relief and Works Agency is yet another blow to the Trump administration’s fast-deteriorating relationship with the Palestinian Authority.
UNRWA was originally set up to assist refugees displaced by the Arab war against the establishment of the State of Israel. Now, 70 years later, the organisation offers aid to the millions of their descendants.
The Trump administration called for a “fundamental re-examination” of the agency.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed alarm at the consequences of such a move. “I’m very concerned,” he said.
PLO executive committee member Mustafa Barghouti said Trump was trying “to liquidate the rights of Palestinian refugees”.
Abbas effectively threw in the towel over the weekend in a scathing speech targeting the American administration generally and Trump personally by dismissing their peace effort and calling for his “house to be destroyed”.
“Damn your money!” Abbas declared.
Israeli TV said that Abbas decided to make the speech after parts of Trump’s Middle East peace plan were leaked by the Saudis.
According to the reports, the plan would create a Palestinian entity that is less than a state, and it would not be based on the pre-1967 lines. Israel would control its borders and the Jordan Valley, Jerusalem would be an issue for negotiations, settlements might not have to be removed, and the Palestinian refugee issue would not be addressed.