The United States is slashing more than $200 million of taxpayer-funded aid to the Palestinian Authority, the State Department announced late Friday.
The announcement came after President Donald Trump ordered a review of the funds in January. The money, which was to be used for general services such as health care and education, has sat frozen since. Trump wanted to ensure the money was not being used to fund terrorism while at the same time providing American taxpayers with a return on their investment.
What are the details?
The State Department said in a statement:
At the direction of President Trump, we have undertaken a review of U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority and in the West Bank and Gaza to ensure these funds are spent in accordance with U.S. national interests and provide value to the U.S. taxpayer.
As a result of that review, at the direction of the president, we will redirect more than $200 million ... originally planned for programs in the West Bank and Gaza.
Terrorism in the Gaza Strip, perpetrated by Hamas, played a role in the decision, the government said, according to the Associated Press.
"This decision takes into account the challenges the international community faces in providing assistance in Gaza, where Hamas control endangers the lives of Gaza’s citizens and degrades an already dire humanitarian and economic situation," the State Department said.
A senior U.S. official who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon confirmed Hamas' role in recent unrest in the region contributed to the decision. Indeed, one of the U.S. government's biggest complaints with Palestine is the fact that Palestine's governing body pays the families of Palestinian terrorists killed, injured, or jailed in terrorist attacks on Israel.
How did Palestine react?
Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization's executive committee, characterized the move as "the use of cheap blackmail as a political tool."
The Palestinian people and leadership will not be intimidated and will not succumb to coercion. The rights of the Palestinian people are not for sale. There is no glory in constantly bullying and punishing a people under occupation. The U.S. administration has already demonstrated meanness of spirit in its collusion with the Israeli occupation and its theft of land and resources; now it is exercising economic meanness by punishing the Palestinian victims of this occupation.
What will happen to the allocated money now?
A State Department official told Reuters: "We will work with Congress to redirect these funds to other policy priorities."