Financial assistance used as negotiation tool in Palestine

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Shown here are previous beneficiaries of U.S. financial assistance to Palestinians. © US State Department

U.S. assistance of $25 million to 6 hospitals which were primarily serving Palestinians in Jerusalem has been cut, confirmed an official from the U.S. State Department.

The move follows a review of U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority in Gaza and the West Bank so as “to ensure [that] these funds were being spent in accordance with U.S. national interests and were providing value to the U.S. taxpayer.”

“As a result of that review, at the direction of the president, we will be redirecting approximately $25 million originally planned for the East Jerusalem Hospital Network. Those funds will go to high-priority projects elsewhere,” reads a statement from the State Department in relation to the cut in financial assistance.

“This is not a formula of peacebuilding, this is a complete inhuman and immoral action that adopts the Israeli right-wing narrative to target and punish Palestinian citizens to compromise their rights to independence,” said Ahmad Shami, a spokesman for Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

“Such an act of political blackmail goes against the norms of human decency and morality,” said Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee in view of the slashed U.S. assistance.

U.S. aid has played a significant role in helping Palestinians requiring specialized treatment, including cardiac surgery, and neonatal intensive care, which is ordinarily not available in Gaza and the West Bank, according to the World Health Organization.

Incidentally, in December 2017, Palestinian officials had vehementlyU.S. protested against Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem, a disputed city, as Israel’s capital. They had accused him of using financial assistance as a lever to force them into peace negotiations with Israel.

In yet another move which could be surmised as targeting Palestinians, the Trump administration cut funding to a U.N. agency specially designed to cater to refugees from Palestine and slashed funding by around $200 million.

Trump made it clear that the cuts in financial assistance were aimed at forcing the Palestinians to negotiate.

“You’ll get money, but we’re not paying you until we make a deal,” said Trump in Washington. “If we don’t make a deal, we’re not paying.”

According to Palestinians, Trump’s ploy of slashing financial assistance may have backfired since it has weakened the moderates and encouraged the radicals across the Middle East.