WASHINGTON – The Trump administration has permanently cut more than $200 million in aid for the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza, saying the appropriated funds — already frozen for much of this year — will be "redirected" elsewhere.
The State Department said Friday that the decision followed a review "to ensure these funds are spent in accordance with U.S. national interests and provide value to the U.S. taxpayer." It follows an earlier decision to withhold millions in funding for UNWRA, the United Nations Palestinian refugee agency.
Although Europeans and other international organizations have picked up some of the slack, the U.S. cuts are likely to further weaken the Palestinian Authority that governs the West Bank, and Hamas, in Gaza, which the United States considers a terrorist organization.
Cuts in the UNWRA funding already have led to the laying-off of hundreds of Palestinian employees and cuts in services. As of the end of July, the U.S. had provided $60 million for the U.N. agency this year, compared with $360 million last year.
Cancellation of the bilateral funding, which pays for infrastructure and humanitarian assistance, democracy and education — much of it through nongovernment relief organizations — effectively means the U.S. is giving no money to the Palestinians. This year's budget for the aid was $251 million.
"This decision takes into account the challenges the international community faces in providing assistance in Gaza, where Hamas control endangers the lives of Gaza's citizens and degrades an already dire humanitarian and economic situation," the State Department said.
A Trump administration pledge to resolve the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian dispute has been repeatedly delayed. Officials who discussed the secret plan on the condition of anonymity said in late June that it was likely to be released "within weeks."