White House freeze on Palestinian aid harming USAID, other humanitarian organizations: report

White House freeze on Palestinian aid harming USAID, other humanitarian organizations: report
© Greg Nash

The Trump administration's freeze on Palestinian aid is stymieing the work of U.S.-funded humanitarian organizations and local companies in the region, according to a Haaretz report.

Palestinian officials told the news outlet that the White House's funding suspension, which was announced last month, is hurting people on the ground far more than the Palestinian Authority, the governing body that is the target of the freeze. The U.S. ended Palestinian aid as part of the Taylor Force Act, which requires Palestinian officials to take steps to stop terrorist groups.

Western and Arab officials told Haaretz that they believe the U.S. implemented the freeze in order to put pressure on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who cut off ties with the White House last December after the President TrumpDonald John TrumpFamily says Trump travel ban preventing mother from seeing dying son Saudi Arabia rejects Senate position on Khashoggi killing Five things to know about the Trump inauguration investigation MORE recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

"If they are trying to pressure [Abbas], then this is not the way to do it," former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro told Haaretz. "[Abbas] can live with this freeze." 

ADVERTISEMENT

According to Haaretz, the lack of funding has forced United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to roll back their humanitarian efforts in the region. The development agency, which administers U.S. foreign assistance in the West Bank and Gaza, is reportedly preparing to lay off employees and shut down projects.

Several groups that encourage cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians are also folding, according to Haaretz, as much of their funding comes from the U.S.

President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerNo reason to assume American relations with Mexico are rocky GOP lawmaker predicts Kushner will be Trump’s next chief of staff Ocasio-Cortez mocks idea Kushner could be Trump's chief of staff MORE, whom the president has tasked with brokering an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, recently announced the U.S. will not provide humanitarian aid for Palestinians in Gaza. He said Gazans will not receive aid until the region's governing authority, Hamas, makes moves to create peace in the region. 

"Hamas has driven Gaza to a state of desperation," Kushner said on Sunday, according to The New York Times. "Provocations will not be rewarded with aid." 

The United Nations (UN) has described an "unprecedented humanitarian crisis" in the Gaza Strip caused by Israel's blockade and occupation of the region. The UN warned it will be "unlivable" for its 2 million occupants by 2020, considering its lack of access to basic resources and overpopulation.  

Haaretz report on Monday indicates neither Hamas nor the Palestinian Authority will likely be moved by the U.S.'s funding freeze. 

"In Gaza we have Hamas, the Islamic jihad and more extremist groups," said Dave Harden, the former mission head of USAID in the West Bank and Gaza. "The civil society is weak, the business community is weak. One of the only good things we have are the U.S. humanitarian groups. It’s a grave mistake to hurt them."