In an opinion piece published on the NPR web-site, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel, joined by a fellow expert in international relations, try lending some nuance to the issue of U.S. aid — humanitarian, development, and security assistance — to the Palestinian people. The relatively short piece is reproduced in full, below– after my two cents’ worth (unlike the authors, I am not obligated to sound diplomatic).
America’s complete axing of aid has been done incrementally, over many months, the final blow coming just days ago, on February 1st — one day after the featured piece was published. From their professional, foreign policy perspective, the authors explain some of the legal mechanisms involved, why the complete cut is ill-advised, wasteful, destabilizing and counter-productive — and how it can still be reversed, at least in part, by action from the U.S. Congress. A repeated theme is that the across-the-board aid cuts may negatively impact Israel as well. One very direct example: U.S. aid has for years been critical in training and equipping the Palestinian security forces — which serves mainly the interests of Israel, by helping tamp down resistance to The Occupation.
Moreover, even if one wished to punish the Palestinians (for what, I’m not sure), this slashing of all aid apparently goes way beyond both the intent of Congress and what even the Israeli government considers prudent. But in the twisted, zero-sum, winner-take-all worldview of Donald Trump — and the dark angels whispering (shouting?) in his ear — it probably makes a kind of sense: Love Israel, must punish Palestinians. Sadly, it’s all right in line with Trump’s penchant for creating chaos through his impromptu, shoot-from-the-hip, “let’s-see-what-happens” style of governing. (God help us.)
And, if you’re afraid this complete cut-off of aid to the Palestinians may disqualify the U.S., at long last, as an honest broker in Israeli-Palestinian affairs… there’s no need to worry. No, the final nail in that coffin was already forcefully driven home with America’s declaration last year that an undefined, undifferentiated Jerusalem belongs solely to Israel and is its rightful capital.
Generally, I have little argument with what the two authors have to say below. I do object, however, to their use of the term “generous” to characterize the former level of aid to the Palestinians. The amount they cite is $5 billion over the course of 25 years, or an average of $200 million per year, to meet help basic needs including food, healthcare, infrastructure, education and the like. Frankly, by any reasonable measure, that’s pocket change. Consider that $200 million is what America lavishes upon the State of Israel, in 100% military aid — despite Israel’s already burgeoning military, its own thriving weapons/security industry, and its undeclared nukes — every 3 weeks!
I will add one final point to the writers’ informed analysis: This total elimination of American aid to the stateless, occupied Palestinian populace is a petulant and profoundly mean-spirited act. Simply put, it’s not right. Echoing the words of Israeli commentator Gideon Levy, “Shame on you, America”.*
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Opinion: Here’s Why U.S. Aid To Palestinians Needs To Continue
Further recent commentary on this issue:
A recent issue of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs includes two additional views on the Trump administration’s perverse actions toward the Palestinian people.
*Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy (laden with sarcasm, as is his style) lays it on the line in his Sept. 2018 opinion piece, “Shame on you, America” . He was writing just after the U.S. announced cutting all contributions to UNRWA, a main lifeline for Palestinian refugees in the the Occupied Territories, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. (Levy’s article seems to reside behind Haaretz’ impenetrable pay-wall, thus I include the text below):
Shame on you, America
Gideon Levy | Sep. 2, 2018
Now it’s out in the open: America has declared war on the Palestinians. With his son-in-law Jared Kushner, an expert on humanitarian organizations and Palestinian refugees, the great bully Donald Trump decided to end aid to the UN agency that aids Palestinian refugees. The official explanation: The business model and fiscal practices of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency made it an “irredeemably flawed operation.”
Trump and his son-in-law, the keepers of the seal of good government, found that the agency isn’t properly run. The annual U.S. contribution of $360 million will end. Even in Israel, which rejoices at every Palestinian calamity and is positive that everything is a zero-sum game, people think the state’s greatest friend of all time went a little overboard.
The new America treats small slights and major crimes equally. Allocations to U.S. aid organizations operating in the territories, such as the U.S. Agency for International Development, have been cut by $200 million. Washington decided to hit the Palestinians in the wallet. Of all the huge sums going to aid corrupt regimes, of all the trillions spent on pointless wars and mass killing, it’s the aid to the Jabalya refugee camp that’s mismanaged and has to stop. The Palestinians, blackmailing sons of blackmailers, no longer deserve it because of the business model. It would be funny if it weren’t so sad; the price of the joke will be paid from Chatila to Rafah [Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon and Gaza, respectively].
In the next decade, the United States is set to pour $38 billion into Israel, among the most developed countries on the planet with one of the best equipped armies in the world — which of course follow the right business model. Not a single dollar can be cut. Humanitarian aid to a needy country that doesn’t waste a single cent.
Israel deserves this terrifying aid; it complies with every resolution passed by international institutions, a model of morality that obeys every U.S. recommendation that it withdraw from the territories and end the occupation. It’s worthwhile for America to pay for all its whims and wars. It greatly adds to its global prestige.
This year, America will spend $46 billion in Afghanistan, on a war it can’t get enough of. It will pour $13 billion into Iraq, long after one of the most foolish wars ever ended.
Wars? The one in Afghanistan cost America $753 billion, the one in Iraq $770 billion, according to the Pentagon. According to Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, the actual cost was $1.7 trillion. Two unnecessary wars that caused the needless deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, but the money spent on them conformed with a proper business model. The same for the wars in Syria and Yemen.
Only the UN relief agency for the Palestinians is improperly run. The leader of the free world, the greatest warmonger since World War II, cuts flour for Yarmouk and cooking oil for Bureij, because the Palestinians overestimate refugee numbers.
Behind all this, of course, is a much broader truth. UNRWA could hire Eliad Shraga, head of the Movement for Quality Government in Israel, and comply with Scandinavian management standards, but nothing would make a difference. Israel long ago declared war on the agency, America followed it as usual, all with the aim of removing the refugee issue from the agenda. Anyone familiar with the conditions in the refugee camps knows just how dependent their inhabitants are on the UN agency. There might be some waste, certainly there are freeloaders, reform is absolutely necessary, but UNRWA provides basic humanitarian assistance. Without it there are no schools, clinics and food in the camps. America owes an indirect debt to the people there; it funds and supports the Israeli occupation, and it has never lifted a finger to reach a genuine solution to their suffering.
But the new America has lost its shame, too; it no longer even wants to pretend to be the honest broker, or take care of the world’s needy, as its position obliges it to do. Let us say, then, shame on you, America.