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Senate Dems to Trump: Reverse cuts to Palestinian aid

Dozens of Senate Democrats are demanding that President Trump reverse his decision to slash hundreds of millions of dollars in Palestinian aid.

 

More than 30 Democrats, led by Sen. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), sent a letter to Trump on Friday warning that going through with the cuts would "make a desperate situation even worse."

 

"We are deeply concerned that your strategy of attempting to force the Palestinian Authority to the negotiating table by withholding humanitarian assistance from women and children is misguided and destined to backfire," they wrote. "Your proposed cuts would undermine those who seek a peaceful resolution and strengthen the hands of Hamas and other extremists in the Gaza Strip, as the humanitarian crisis there worsens."

 

The letter comes after the administration announced last month that it would stop funding the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), a United Nations body that distributes aid to Palestinian refugees. Those cuts would result in the organization losing about $300 million in funding.

 

The administration also said it would cut $200 million in economic aid for Palestinians and direct that money toward other projects.

 

The State Department said it was cutting funding for UNRWA because the agency was an "irredeemably flawed operation." Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly told the Trump administration that it supported a complete halt to the funding.

 

Democrats, in their letter to Trump, noted that the U.S. contributions to UNRWA were approved by bipartisan majorities in Congress. They added that the cuts "further reduce the chance of a future peace agreement and threaten Israel's security."

 

"We strongly believe it is in the national security interest of the United States, our ally Israel, the Palestinian people, and our other partners and allies in the region to expeditiously obligate the FY17 Economic Support Fund assistance originally planned for the West Bank and Gaza and to sustain U.S. contributions to UNRWA," the senators wrote.

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