U.S. cuts $200m in aid to Gaza, West Bank

U.S. cuts $200m in aid to Gaza, West Bank

The announcement follows the recent passage of the Taylor Force Act in Congress, a bill aimed at providing greater oversight over how USA taxpayer dollars fund the Palestinians.

Fishing boats are seen at the seaport of Gaza City August 15, 2018.

The US gives support to help the Palestinian Authority provide law enforcement and maintain the rule of law - including funds for "programs implemented by the Middle East Partnership Initiative as well as educational and cultural programing through the US Consulate General in Jerusalem", according to the consulate's website.

In its formal statement, the State Department said that as a result of its investigations into USA aid to the Palestinian government it determined a full halt must be implemented "to ensure these funds are spent in accordance with us national interests and provide value to the us taxpayer".

In a controversial and sharply criticised move meanwhile in January, the USA government announced that it was withholding $65m of a planned $125m funding instalment to the UNRWA, which provides services to Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan and Lebanon.

"For too long the Palestinian government has relied on a State Department that caved to their whims", the former official, speaking only on background, said.

Trump has tasked his son-in-law Jared Kushner and lawyer Jason Greenblatt to draft the peace proposals, saying earlier this week that there would be something "very good" for the Palestinians. Israel says Jerusalem is its eternal and indivisible capital.

A promised Trump administration peace plan to resolve the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian dispute has been repeatedly delayed. A decision on when the initiative would be rolled out has not yet been made. As of the end of July, the United States had provided $60 million for the U.N. agency this year, compared with $360 million last year.

The decision is nearly certain to exacerbate the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza.

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"Hamas is fighting a morally-bankrupt war at the expense of the Palestinian people", said the official, who was only authorized to speak on background.

"The US administration is demonstrating the use of cheap blackmail as a political tool", PLO Executive Committee member Dr. Hanan Ashrawi said in response.

"This administration is dismantling decades of U.S. vision and engagement in Palestine", Husam Zomlot, head of the Palestinian General Delegation to the United States said in a statement.

The announcement does not include some $65 million in frozen USA funding for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, which provides services to Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan and Lebanon.

U.S. National Security adviser John Bolton told Reuters this week that UNRWA was "a failed mechanism" that violated standard global law on the status of refugees.

Ali Abunimah, co-founder of the Electronic Intifada publication, said Trump's decision on Friday might impact health and food assistance programmes but will not be "as severe as the cuts the United States has already implemented for UNRWA, which have really inflicted great suffering on some of the most vulnerable Palestinians".

"Inhabitants of Gaza are already suffering severe hardships under the tyranny of Hamas and border restrictions imposed by Israel. The rights of the Palestinian people are not for sale".

J Street, a liberal pro-Israel advocacy group, called the new cuts "a moral outrage and a major strategic blunder".

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