Palestinians blast Trump’s aid cut as political blackmail

Aid being given out at a United Nations food distribution center in a refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip this month. (photo: Mahmud Hams / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images)
This is the second cut in humanitarian aid this year, now totalling almost $300 million for food, medicine, and schools.

By Isabel Kershner | The New York Times | Aug 25, 2018

“This administration is dismantling decades of US vision and engagement in Palestine. This is another confirmation of abandoning the two-state solution and fully embracing Netanyahu’s anti-peace agenda. Weaponizing humanitarian and developmental aid as political blackmail does not work.”
— Husam Zomlot, the head of the PLO’s general delegation to the United States

“This decision represents a terrible decision by Trump’s team, which seems to think it will put pressure on the Palestinians to come to the table (it won’t).”
— Daniel Shapiro, former US ambassador to Israel

Palestinian officials denounced the Trump administration’s cancellation of more than $200 million in aid, accusing Washington of “weaponizing” humanitarian assistance by using it as a tool to coerce political concessions.

The aid cut, announced Friday, was the latest in a series of measures apparently aimed at forcing the Palestinian leadership to return to the negotiating table with Israel while American officials work on a long-awaited peace proposal, the details of which remain opaque.

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The problem with international aid to Palestine

Palestinians take part in a protest against aid cuts, outside the UN offices in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, Jan 28, 2018. (photo: Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash90)

The Palestinian people have become dependent on foreign humanitarian aid to survive, but its adverse effects are strangling their economy.

By Liora Sion | +972 Magazine | Mar 20, 2018

Since the end of the Cold War, states have preferred humanitarian aid over development funds as a means of influencing international politics. Humanitarian aid is not an end in and of itself, but a tool to solve conflicts and promote state building. As such, it is dependent on the interests of the donor countries.

International aid to the Palestinians is very generous. The United Nations is aiming to raise approximately $540 million per year for the five million Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza. That’s a lot of money when compared to sums raised for other countries in crisis. For example, take Afghanistan, where the UN hopes to raise $437 million for the 34 million citizens of the country, despite the enormous difficulties it faces. In Iraq, a country in desperate need of rehabilitation, the UN seeks to raise $550 million for a population of 37 million. When compared to African countries such as Burundi ($113 million in aid for 10 million people) or Cameroon ($304.5 million for 23 million people), the gap is even more alarming.

Ironically, despite the vast sums, humanitarian aid doesn’t just help the Palestinians — it also harms them. Since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, the occupied territories have seen a steady economic decline and a rise in unemployment. These phenomena are tied, of course, largely due to the IDF’s closures and checkpoints, which have dismembered the West Bank and prevent both people and goods from moving about freely. Humanitarian organizations, however, also play a role.

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