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American Jews debate Trump’s proposed cut of Palestinian aid

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley

by RAFAEL MEDOFF
JNS.org

JANUARY 11, 2018 – Many major Jewish organizations are expressing support for the idea of reducing US aid to the Palestinians after President Donald Trump mentioned the possibility of a cut in a tweet this week.

Earlier this month, the president wrote, “We pay the Palestinians HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect … with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?”

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said the same day that Trump “doesn’t want to give any additional funding until the Palestinians agree to come back to the negotiation table.”

Some American aid to the Palestinians is sent to the Palestinian Authority (PA), some is given directly to Palestinian projects in PA-controlled areas and some is channeled through UN agencies that assist the Palestinians, such as the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. The current annual US contribution to the Palestinians totals more than $600 million.

“We have supported and continue to support reductions in assistance to the Palestinian Authority based on actions such as payments to families of terrorists and violation of its peace process commitment to direct talks with Israel, instead seeking to have the international community endorse Palestinian objectives,” said AIPAC spokesman Marshall Wittmann.

“It is reasonable for the US to use foreign aid as one of several mechanisms for responding to instances where its own interests, or the interests of its allies, are threatened,” B’nai B’rith International said in a statement. “The Palestinians have refused to negotiate directly with Israel, have failed to comply with their obligations under previous agreements, and have chosen instead to pursue an anti-Israel, anti-US agenda at the United Nations.”

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said Trump “is targeting the UN, Pakistan, and now the Palestinian Authority as a businessperson rather than a politician, asking ‘Am I getting value for my money? If not, and the recipients use American taxpayers’ money to scorn the US, why should money continue to flow to them?’ Perhaps the shock therapy of the US not acting as an automatic ATM machine is a good thing.”

Left-of-center voices disagree.

Kenneth Bob, president of Ameinu, formerly known as the Labor Zionist Alliance, told JNS he believes any reduction in US aid would be “counter-productive” because it could impact “essential Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation” and “important humanitarian aid.” Therefore, he said, “I do not see any positive outcome for Israel, the US or the Palestinians from a cut in aid.”

Former Democratic National Committee chairman Steve Grossman, who is also a former president of AIPAC, told JNS that he “wouldn’t rule out using American aid to the Palestinians as a vehicle for putting pressure on the Palestinians to act in ways that are consistent with a peace process,” but “it should only be done in extreme cases.”

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