Israelis voice warnings, Palestinians talk of “blackmail” in wake of tweets by Trump

President Trump formally recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in an address from the White House on Dec 6, 2017. (photo: Kevin Lamarque / Reuters)

Cutting US aid would simultaneously weaken the Palestinian Authority, jeopardize Israeli security, and reduce the ability of the US to broker the peace process.

By Loveday Morris and Ruth Eglash | The Washington Post | Jan 3, 2018

“Cutting aid to the Palestinians at this stage would have the opposite effect to what the Americans want. . . . The situation in Gaza is terrible. If America cuts its aid, it would be catastrophic.”
— Moshe Maoz, an Israeli professor of Islamic and Middle Eastern studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

“Traditionally, the Israeli defense establishment has resisted pressure by Israeli hawks who want to shut down UNRWA funding. They say, if it’s not UNRWA, then education will be provided by Hamas.”
— Ofer Zalzberg, a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group

President Trump’s threat to cut aid to the Palestinians has the potential to backfire, Israeli security officials and analysts warned Wednesday, saying it could weaken a Palestinian leadership that cooperates with Israel on security matters and fuel extremism by worsening already dire humanitarian conditions.

Palestinian officials accused the United States of using bullying tactics after both Trump and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley indicated that the administration may cut funding to the Palestinians if they do not enter into peace talks with Israel. Palestinians “will not be blackmailed,” said Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee.

But concerns over a funding cut straddle both sides of the conflict. The United States contributes roughly $700 million annually to the Palestinians, about half of it through the United Nations agency charged with humanitarian relief for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.

“Cutting funding would not bring anything good to the situation,” said an Israeli security official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic. “Doing this would end up making the Palestinian leadership even weaker.”

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