WASHINGTON (JTA) – Assistance to the Palestinians is one of the few areas to be increased in the Trump administrations plans for massive cuts at the U.S. State Department.
Foreign Policy magazine on Monday posted 15 pages of proposed cuts it obtained as part of the Trump administration’s plan to roll the U.S. Agency for International Development into the State Department. The vast majority of aid programs are to be cut and some are to be eliminated.
Aid to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, however, will increase slightly, from $205.5 million to $215 million.
It’s not clear why the Palestinians benefit, but Jason Greenblatt, U.S. President Donald Trump’s envoy to the region, has made economic stimulus in the Palestinian areas a key component of efforts to create the climate for renewed peace talks.
Republicans in Congress want to cut aid to the Palestinian Authority because it continues to pay out compensation to the families of slain or jailed terrorists. The funds proposed by the State Department, however, could conceivably be earmarked for programs that bypass the Palestinian Authority. Overall, Palestinians receive about $500 million annually from the United States.
Egypt and Jordan both stand to lose economic assistance under the proposed cuts – Egypt’s funds would be slashed almost in half, and Jordan would lose a fifth. The economic aid is separate from the defence assistance to these countries, which is administered by the Pentagon. Both nations receive assistance as part of peace deals signed with Israel and brokered by the United States.
Israel has not received economic assistance since the 1990s, when both sides determined that it was no longer a developing nation.
The Trump administration earlier this year said it wanted to slash State Department funding overall by nearly a third, but did not offer details.
The U.S. Congress is likely to resist the cuts. Key Republicans in both chambers have said that development aid is a key element of a preventative defence in keeping other countries stable.