According to CNN, President Trump ordered the State Department to revoke over $200 million in economic aid to Palestine on Friday following a department-wide review examining whether or not the funding was in the American taxpayers’ best interests.
A senior official from the State Department claimed that the economic aid, that was later withdrawn, was initially intended to help fund programs in the the West Bank and Gaza.
“At the direction of the President, we will redirect more than $200 million in FY2017 Economic Support Funds originally planned for programs in the West Bank and Gaza,” the official said. “Those funds will now address high-priority projects elsewhere.” In addition to sending funds to help provide and maintain local law enforcement in Palestine, many cultural and educational programs are created and kept afloat through the Middle East Partnership Initiative.
This announcement comes after the president instructed the State Department to conduct a review to ensure that U.S. assistance to Palestine corresponds with America’s own national interests.
“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,” according to a notice relayed from the State Department.
While the decision is widely supported by the Trump administration, congressional Democrats have already voiced their opposition to the move, claiming that it would only cause further damage to the growing conflict between Israel and Palestine. The vice chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Patrick Leahy, asserted that, after well over a year and a half in office, President Trump has failed “to announce anything remotely resembling a coherent policy to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
“Inhabitants of Gaza are already suffering severe hardships under the tyranny of Hamas and border restrictions imposed by Israel,” Leahy continued. “It is the Palestinian people, virtual prisoners in an increasingly volatile conflict, who will most directly suffer the consequences of this callous and ill-advised attempt to respond to Israel’s security concerns.”
An executive committee member of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Hanan Ashrawi, also denounced President Trump’s order to withdraw funds from the Palestinian territories of both the West Bank and Gaza.
“The U.S. administration is demonstrating the use of cheap blackmail as a political tool. The Palestinian people and leadership will not be intimidated and will not succumb to coercion,” Ashwari said, in a statement released to CNN.
“There is no glory in constantly bullying and punishing a people under occupation,” Ashrawi continued, adding that the United States “has already demonstrated meanness of spirit in its collusion with the Israeli occupation…now it is exercising economic meanness by punishing the Palestinian victims of this occupation.”