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US cut $10-million aid for Palestinian-Israeli 'reconciliation activities'

Ahram Online , Sunday 16 Sep 2018
File Photo: U.S. President Donald Trump addresses a reception for Congressional Medal of Honor recipients in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., September 12, 2018 (Photo: Reuters)

President Donald Trump's administration decided on Saturday to cut a $10-million aid for the so-called Conflict Management and Mitigation (CMM) grants for Palestinians.

According to the website of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the CMM program is "part of a worldwide effort to bring together individuals of different backgrounds from areas of conflict in people-to-people reconciliation activities."

Involving cooperation between Palestinians and Israelis, the program funds projects that tackle a wide range of issues, including economic development, environment, health, education, sports, music and information technology.

USAID and US Embassy Tel Aviv have invested in 113 CMM grants, according to figures issued by the former.

Tim Rieser, foreign policy aide to Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, said that USAID officials "did not want to cut programs with Palestinians, but had to accommodate a White House that does not want to send American funds to Palestinians", the New York Times reported on Friday.

Rieser added, based on the same report, that funding will only be maintained for Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs, which is "contrary to the tradition of the funds and intent of the Congress."

"Both Palestinian and Israeli kids will lose, and these programs will be meaningless, if the PA [Palestinian Authority] continues to condemn a plan they haven’t seen & refuses to engage on it.  Hopefully the PA will lead... let’s see...", tweeted Jason D. Green—Trump's assistant and special representative for international negotiations—on Saturday.

This is one out of several punitive measures that have been recently taken by Trump against the Palestinians due to the rejection of the latter to start a peace process, which has been stalled since 2014.

“I think the president has basically said that he doesn’t want to give any additional funding until the Palestinians are agreeing to come back to the negotiation table,” US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said in January.

“We’re trying to move for a peace process but if that doesn’t happen the president is not going to continue to fund that situation.”

Earlier this month, being criticised by Arab League chief Ahmed Abul Gheit, the US administration decided to shut down the Palestine Liberation Organisation's (PLO) office in Washington.  

In January, the administration cut hundreds of millions of dollars that go to fund the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).

Speaking to Ahram Online in July, UNRWA Spokesperson Christopher Gunness said the United States vowed last year to fund UNRWA with US$ 365 million, though they have now cut the sum by $305 million.

This escalation is putting the health, education and social safety services offered by UNRWA to the Palestinian people "at stake", said Pierre Krähenbühl—UNRWA's commissioner-general—in a Cairo briefing on 11 September.

Meanwhile, Protests in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank have taken place in past months following the decision of Trump to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, leading to the deaths of around 60 Palestinians and the injury of thousands others.

The Palestinians seek East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

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