The Trump administration has announced further cuts in aid to the Palestinians — this time, cutting money to cover cancer treatments and other critical care for Palestinians at Jerusalem hospitals.
State Department spokesperson Alessia Dinkel told NPR the administration is pulling $25 million it had planned to give to the East Jerusalem Hospital Network, a group of six hospitals, some church-run, providing care primarily to Palestinians.
In past years, U.S. funding covered medical costs for Palestinians to go to these hospitals for treatment unavailable in the West Bank and Gaza — from cardiac and eye surgeries to neonatal intensive care and children's dialysis, according to the World Health Organization.
President Trump said he's cut aid for the Palestinians to pressure them on a peace deal with Israel.
"This is not surprising at all. Let America know that all these acts will not change our position toward our cause one bit. On the contrary, it consolidates our positions toward every issue, including Jerusalem," said Adnan Husseini, Palestinian Authority minister for Jerusalem affairs.
Dave Harden, a former senior U.S. official overseeing aid to the Palestinians under the Obama administration, called the funding cut "particularly vindictive." He warned it could "cause the collapse" of hospitals including Augusta Victoria Hospital, run by the Lutheran World Federation, and St. John Eye Hospital.
These East Jerusalem hospitals had recently been given preferential treatment by the U.S. — as one of the few projects the U.S. had exempted from the Taylor Force Act, a new law limiting aid to the Palestinians to protest Palestinian stipends to prisoners convicted of attacks in Israel.
This is the third Friday in a row that U.S. officials have unveiled Palestinian funding cuts.
Last week, officials said the U.S. would no longer give money to the United Nations agency running schools and health clinics for Palestinian refugees, amounting to a $300 million cut in expected aid. The week before that, officials said the U.S. was slashing more than $200 million for humanitarian and development aid in the West Bank and Gaza.
The money for East Jerusalem hospitals was one of the last batches of aid to the Palestinians the administration had been considering whether to release. Harden, the former U.S. official, said he received word about the funding cut from Trump administration officials. Dinkel of the State Department said the funding cut was imposed Thursday without announcement.
Dinkel told NPR that aid for Palestinians – as well as for Syria and Pakistan – is being redirected to other "priorities" including "programs in the Middle East, Africa, South and East Asia that counter the threat of ISIS; assistance to counter the WMD proliferation threats caused by Syria, Iran, and DPRK; assistance to help Bangladesh manage the influx of Rohingya refugees; support to help Colombia and other countries in the region manage the influx of migrants from Venezuela; and support for Afghanistan in furtherance of the President's South Asia strategy."
In a phone call with U.S. Jewish community leaders and rabbis Thursday ahead of the Jewish new year, Trump said he's "stopped massive amounts of money" to the Palestinians, whom he has accused of showing disrespect to the U.S.
Trump is seeking to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. But the Palestinian Authority cut ties with the administration after Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Palestinians also have claims in the city.
The Palestinian Authority cut ties with the administration after Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Palestinians also have claims in the city.
"The United States was paying them tremendous amounts of money," Trump said, according to a White House transcript of the call. "And I'd say, you'll get money, but we're not paying you until we make a deal. If we don't make a deal, we're not paying. And that's going to have a little impact.
"I said, "By the way, did you ever do that before?" I said to some of the past negotiators. "Did you ever do that before? Did you ever use the money angle?" They said, "No, sir. We thought it would be disrespectful." I said, "I don't think it's disrespectful at all. I think it's disrespectful when people don't come to the table," Trump said.