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PALESTINIANS SUFFER U.S. AID SHUTDOWN

USAID FUNDING FOR VARIOUS PROJECTS IN WEST BANK GAZA CUT OFF.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) ceased to provide all types of assistance to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza following the January 31st deadline imposed by the new United States legislation under which foreign aid recipients’ are now exposed to anti- terrorism law suits.

 “At the request of the Palestinian Authority, we have wound down certain projects and programs funded with assistance under the authorities specified in the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act (ATCA) in the West Bank and Gaza. USAID assistance in the West Bank and Gaza has ceased,” declared a high ranking U.S. official last Friday 1ST February 2019.

With the new deadline, the $60 million in US aid for the Palestinian security forces, whose cooperation with Israeli forces has helped maintain relative peace in the West Bank, also comes to an end. In accordance with the ATCA law passed by the U.S. Congress, Americans are now empowered to sue foreign aid recipients in American courts over alleged complicity in acts of war. This has led to the decision by the Palestinians to decline any further funding from the U.S., for legal reason.

Being the main agency for administering U.S. foreign assistance in the Palestinian territories, and around most developing countries of the world, USAID spent $268 million on public projects in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as the Palestinian private sector debt repayment in 2017, despite there being significant cuts to all new funding through the end of June 2018.

 According to Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the suspension of aid to the Palestinian people, which included critical sectors such as health and education, will have a negative impact on all, create an unpleasant atmosphere, and increase instability in the country.

The current Palestinian authority is an interim governing body which was set up following the 1993 Oslo peace accords. The peace process, aimed at finding a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has been stalled since 2014.

Announcement of the USAID aid stoppage comes after humanitarian officials in the West Bank and Gaza said they were facing a general cutback in funding from international donors worldwide. Last year Washington cut hundreds of millions of Dollars of aid to the Palestinians, which included funding to humanitarian groups supported by USAID.

The U.S. cuts were widely seen as a means of pressuring the Palestinian leadership to resume peace talks with Israel and to engage with the U.S. Trump administration ahead of its long-awaited Middle East peace plan. The move saw dozens of employees working for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) being laid off, health and employment programs were shut down, and infrastructure projects halted.

In August last year, 2018, Washington announced an end to all U.S. funding for the United Nations (U.N.) agency that assists Palestinian refugees. The agency had received $364 million from the United States in 2017. In January the World Food Programme (WFP) cut food assistance to about 190,000 Palestinians due to a shortage of funds.

According to the Diplomatic sources, U.S., Israeli and Palestinian officials are trying to find ways to keep aid  money flowing to Abbas’s security forces and USAID will continue to implement conflict management and mitigation grants in Israel with their Jewish and Arab counterparts. So far no steps have been taken to close the USAID mission in the Palestinian territories and future staffing at its office in the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.

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