Archive for the ‘Trump and Palestinian funding’ category

Trump Makes Good on Threat, Cuts Payment to UNRWA

January 17, 2018

Trump Makes Good on Threat, Cuts Payment to UNRWA, Jewish PressHana Levi Julian, January 16, 2018

US President Donald Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump has made good on his warning that funding would be withheld in response to a lack of movement towards peace by the Palestinian Authority.

The Trump administration informed the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Tuesday that it will transfer a payment of just $60 million in aid to the organization – a cut of more than 50 percent of what was to be a tranche of $125 in its initial annual pledge to the agency.

The remaining $65 million in funding is being withheld, according to State Department spokesperson Healther Nauert. “It’s money that’s being frozen at this time,” she told journalists at a press briefing. “It’s not being canceled. It’s just being held for future considerations.” She said additional U.S. funding will be dependent on changes being made at the agency.

The U.S. provides about 30 percent of UNRWA’s overall budget. In 2016, the European Union – the agency’s second-largest donor – gave less than 50 percent of the American contribution, which was $355 million.

More than half of UNRWA’s budget is devoted to education; but a look at the textbooks from which the children in UNRWA schools are taught shows the agency is violating the basic tenets of the UN Charter, and blatantly inciting against Israel.

UNRWA school textbooks show there is “no hope for peace in the region,” according to a September 28, 2017 study by the Center for Near East Policy.

The study reviewed 150 Palestinian Authority textbooks for grades one to 12, half of which were published in 2016-17. Among other things, the textbooks claim Jews have no rights in ‘Palestine,’ deny the existence of Jewish holy places there and delete Israel from the map. The books also promote violent struggle as the path to liberation.

During the last war between Israel and the Gaza-based Hamas terrorist group, a number of UNRWA schools were used by terrorists to stockpile weapons and missiles. Launching sites for rocket and missile attacks against Israeli civilians were situated close to UNRWA facilities, and terrorists were not stopped by staff from using civilians sheltering there as human shields while attacking Israel. Hamas terror tunnels were found beneath UNRWA schools.

Senior U.S. officials told Associated Press on Sunday that the plan to withhold the funds is supported by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis, who both see it as a compromise to the plan backed by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, who believes all funds should be cut off until the Palestinian Authority returns to the moribund final status talks with Israel.

Trump Threatens to Deal Another Blow to the Palestinian Cause

January 11, 2018

Trump Threatens to Deal Another Blow to the Palestinian Cause, Town HallVictor Davis Hanson, January 10, 2018

Trump may be rash and unfamiliar with the stagnant Middle East peace process, but his political instincts are probably correct. Polls show that less than 20 percent of Americans support the Palestinian cause. Many U.S. citizens are tired of subsidizing those who claim that they do not like their benefactors in the United States.

It finally may be time for the Palestinian factions to fund their own causes and go their own ways.

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President Trump set off another Twitter firestorm last week when he hinted that he may be considering cutting off hundreds of millions of dollars in annual U.S. aid to the Palestinians. Trump was angered over Palestinian unwillingness to engage in peace talks with Israel after the Trump administration announced the move of the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

Given that the U.S. channels its Palestinian aid through third-party United Nations organizations, it’s unclear how much money Trump is talking about it. But in total it may exceed $700 million per year, according to reports.

A decade ago, the U.S. row with the Palestinian Authority would have been major news. But not now.

Why?

The entire Middle East has radically changed — and along with it the role and image of the Palestinians.

First, the U.S. is now one of the largest producers of fossil-fuel energy in the world. America is immune from the sort of Arab oil embargo that in 1973-74 paralyzed the U.S. economy as punishment for American support of Israel. Even Israel, thanks to new offshore oil and natural gas discoveries, is self-sufficient in energy and immune from Arab cutoffs.

Second, the Middle East is split into all sorts of factions. Iran seeks to spread radical Shiite theocracy throughout Iraq and Syria and into the Persian Gulf states — and is the greatest supporter of Palestinian armed resistance. The so-called “moderate” Sunni autocracies despise Iran. Understandably, most Arab countries fear the specter of a nuclear Iran far more than they do the reality of a democratic and nuclear Israel.

A third player — radical Islamic terrorism — has turned against the Arab status quo as well as the West. Because Palestinian organizations such as Hamas had flirted with Iran and its appendages (such as the terrorists of Hezbollah), they have become less useful to the Arab establishment. The terrorist bloodlettings perpetrated by groups such as the Islamic State and al-Qaida have discredited terror as a legitimate means to an end in the eyes of the Arab world, despite previous support for Palestinian terrorists.

Third, the world itself may have passed the Palestinian issue by.

Israel was founded in 1948. Palestinian rhetoric that they would push the Jews into the sea is by now stale. There have been seven decades of failed intifadas and suicide bombing campaigns, along with full-scale Arab-Israeli wars.

Equally futile were endless “peace processes,” “peace initiatives,” “road maps” and “multiparty talks,” plus Middle East “conferences,” “summits” and “memoranda” all over the world, from Madrid and Oslo to Camp David.

In the meantime, most other “refugees” the world over have long ago moved on. Around the time Israel was created, some 13 million German speakers were ethnically cleansed from East Prussia and Eastern Europe. The word “Prussia” no longer exists as a geographical or national label. Seven decades later, the grandchildren of refugees do not replay World War II. “Prussians” do not talk about reclaiming their ancestral homelands in present-day Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. German-speaking youth do not demand a “right of return” to their grandparents’ homes to the east.

Fourth, the Palestinians have never been able to craft a successful, transparent, consensual government. After 30 years of waiting, the world has mostly given up on their rhetoric of self-government and reform on the West Bank.

Since the Palestinian proclamation of independence in 1988, there have been only two “presidents”: Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas. Neither has allowed open and transparent elections. A Palestinian president gets power by seizing it. He loses it only by dying in office. Over the same period, Israel has elected seven different prime ministers from a variety of political parties.

The Palestinian political party Fatah is engaged in a deadly rivalry with the terrorist-inspired Hamas organization that has run Gaza for over a decade. The beef is not over democracy, but over which faction will bury the other.

The Palestinians’ inability to rule the West Bank in constitutional fashion is why hundreds of thousands of expatriate Palestinians voice their solidarity from a safe distance while living in North America or Europe. More than a million Palestinians prefer to stay put in Israel. They are convinced that they will have more security, freedom and prosperity in a democratic state than under dictatorial Palestinian rule a few miles away.

Trump may be rash and unfamiliar with the stagnant Middle East peace process, but his political instincts are probably correct. Polls show that less than 20 percent of Americans support the Palestinian cause. Many U.S. citizens are tired of subsidizing those who claim that they do not like their benefactors in the United States.It finally may be time for the Palestinian factions to fund their own causes and go their own ways.

Trump is serious about slashing aid to Palestinians and Hizballah-dominated Lebanon

January 4, 2018

Trump is serious about slashing aid to Palestinians and Hizballah-dominated Lebanon, DEBKAfile, January 4, 2017

In view of the Trump administration Middle East policies, which meet Israel’s most vital security concerns, the attitude adopted towards Hamas by Israel’s defense minister Avigdor Lieberman and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gady Eisenkott is incomprehensible. At a time that Washington is clamping down hard on Iran’s anti-Israel friends, pawns and proxies in the Middle East, Israel’s own security leaders are talking quietly to Hamas. They believe they can coax the leaders of this Iranian-funded terrorist organization into stopping the rocket and mortar fire from Gaza which beset Israel almost daily. Still worse, they are using as their main intermediaries local UNRWA officers, who are notoriously antagonistic to Israel and represent a UN body targeted by the Trump administration for the cutoff of aid. They are assisted by a UN Middle East envoy, Nikolay Mladenov of Bulgarian.

These talks have achieved very little. Hamas has only consented to its own operatives refraining from firing the rockets, but shuts both eyes when fellow terrorist factions keep the rockets coming, so long as they are kept to a “moderate” trickle. Given these contacts with Hamas, it is hard for Israel to raise an outcry when a Palestinian Authority official gets together with its arch-foe, Hassan Nasrallah. Meanwhile, “moderate” rocket fire is a continuous bane for hundreds of thousands of Israelis who are trying to live normal lives.

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Palestinian leaders in Ramallah were wrong to assume that President Donald Trump does not seriously mean to cut off US aid. He meant exactly what he said when he tweeted on Wednesday, Jan. 3: …we pay the Palestinians HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect. They don’t even want to negotiate a long overdue… peace treaty with Israel. We have taken Jerusalem, the toughest part of the negotiation, off the table, but Israel, for that, would have had to pay more.” He then asked rhetorically: “But with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?”

DEBKAfile points out that, in the first place, Donald Trump is always serious when he discusses money, and, in the second, he is ready to wield the axe on US aid programs,  not just for Ramallah (and Pakistan), but across the Middle East. Nations and organizations even slightly tainted with Iranian influence are especially targeted.

Hizballah’s secretary general Hassan Nasrallah was fast on the uptake. In a speech on Wednesday night, he stressed that Iran and his own organization were financing the Palestinian struggle over Jerusalem. He disclosed a recent meeting he had in Beirut with Azzam Al-Ahmed of Fatah, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ special emissary for negotiations with Hamas.
In his speech, he made four points which represented Tehran’s reply to Trump:

  1. The Palestinians need not worry. They can rely on Iran and Hizballah to make up the funding shortfall resulting from the cutoff of US aid.
  2. The Fatah-Hamas reconciliation talks brokered by Egypt depend above all on Hizballah’s say-so for a Hamas decision.
  3. Even Abbas is forced to accept this, which is why he had no choice but to send a representative of his Fatah party for a secret meeting with the Hizballah leader. Since Hamas’ deputy chief, Salah Arouri, had already spent time with Nasrallah before traveling to Tehran, Abbas had decided he had better place his party and the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah on an equal footing with Hams vis-a-vis Tehran.
  4. Just as Iran and Hizballah are bankrolling Hamas and Jihad Islami for fighting Israel from the Gaza Strip, they are also backing the Palestinian struggle for Jerusalem. This cuts Jordan out of the picture. Whether or not this is the truth, Nasrallah’s rhetoric made an impression on Palestinian and wider Arab opinion.

Until recently, some US administration officials were certain they had managed to extract Lebanese President Michel Aoun and the Lebanese army from the Iranian-Hizballah orbit. Trump was not sold on this and acted to neutralize this assumption. He inserted Andrew L. Peek into the State Department as deputy assistant secretary of state covering Iran and Iraq. Peek, who has no diplomatic record, comes from US military intelligence, a world which never shared the State Department’s patience with Iran and Hizballah. His appointment quickly touched off an administration reassessment of the US economic and military aid program for Lebanon. It was coupled with a recommendation of political action to head off a pact between President Aoun and Nasrallah, which could give this pro-Iranian duo a majority in parliament in Lebanon’s next election. It was also decided to discontinue US support for the Lebanese army in view of its domination by Hizballah.

President Trump is contemplating similar steps in Baghdad for curtailing Iranian domination of Iraq’s political leadership.

In view of the Trump administration Middle East policies, which meet Israel’s most vital security concerns, the attitude adopted towards Hamas by Israel’s defense minister Avigdor Lieberman and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gady Eisenkott is incomprehensible. At a time that Washington is clamping down hard on Iran’s anti-Israel friends, pawns and proxies in the Middle East, Israel’s own security leaders are talking quietly to Hamas. They believe they can coax the leaders of this Iranian-funded terrorist organization into stopping the rocket and mortar fire from Gaza which beset Israel almost daily. Still worse, they are using as their main intermediaries local UNRWA officers, who are notoriously antagonistic to Israel and represent a UN body targeted by the Trump administration for the cutoff of aid. They are assisted by a UN Middle East envoy, Nikolay Mladenov of Bulgarian.

These talks have achieved very little. Hamas has only consented to its own operatives refraining from firing the rockets, but shuts both eyes when fellow terrorist factions keep the rockets coming, so long as they are kept to a “moderate” trickle. Given these contacts with Hamas, it is hard for Israel to raise an outcry when a Palestinian Authority official gets together with its arch-foe, Hassan Nasrallah. Meanwhile, “moderate” rocket fire is a continuous bane for hundreds of thousands of Israelis who are trying to live normal lives.