The U.S. State Department informed Congress that the Trump administration had decided to cut more than 200 million dollars in aid to the Palestinian Authority, following a review of the American assistance earmarked for the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The announcement underscored the fact that Hamas controls Gaza – an Islamist group that is recognized as a terror organization by the United States – was the main reason for the Administration’s decision. In response to the American move, Palestinian officials condemned President Donald Trump and his Administration for what they termed “blackmailing the Palestinian people.” “The United States of America and (U.S.) President (Donald) Trump’s administration is blackmailing and putting pressure on the Palestinian people. This decision cuts the aid, including the last 200 million (US Dollars), we were completely expecting it under the policy of blackmailing and threatening that the United States of America practices and in the context of passing what is called the deal of the century,” PLO Executive Committee Member Wasel Abu Yousef said.
A White House official rejected the Palestinian condemnation, explaining to TV7 that “the Palestinians cannot reject all U.S. involvement in mediating a solution to their conflict with Israel, refuse to meet with Trump Administration officials and incite against Washington on a regular basis, while on the other hand, expect continued financial support from the United States.” The American official stressed that “the ongoing Palestinian attitude, in which they think that they can spit on the hand that feeds them, is over.” That is why, aside from a sharp cut in aid to the Palestinian Authority and a previous slash to the budget allocation to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, UNRWA; the White House intends to announce soon that only half-a-million Palestinians will be recognized as refugees rather than the five million people currently recognized by the United Nations. The move, which is expected to be publicized at the beginning of September, will disqualify the ‘right of return’ for millions of Palestinians, whom UNRWA considers refugees, by no longer allowing refugee status to be inherited, as has been the U.N. body’s policy to date. In addition to this step, the United States is reportedly expected to ask Israel to reconsider UNRWA’s mandate across the Palestinian territories, in order to prevent it from receiving funding from Arab states.