U.S. to Cut Millions in Funding for ‘Coexistence’ Events

Saeb Erekat (Miriam Alster/ Flash90)

The United States on Friday pulled millions in funding that had already been approved by Congress to support groups that facilitate meetings between Israelis and Palestinians, the New York Times reported. The move will not affect funding for Palestinian Authority security forces, which work together with the IDF to stop terrorism.

The money that was being cut was used by USAID (United States Agency for International Development), such as Conflict Management and Mitigation Program, Kids4Peace, and other groups. The money had been used for facilitating activities between Israelis and Palestinians, including dialogues, sports matches, and other events. As a result of the cuts, USAID said in a statement that it is “currently unable to engage Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza as a result of the administration’s recent decision on Palestinian assistance.” Only programs that involve Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs will receive funding, officials said.

The move follows a number of blows by the U.S. aimed at the Palestinian Authority. Last week, the State Department ordered the closure of the Washington DC mission of the PLO. That was preceded by a halt in UNWRA funding by the administration and freezing payments to Arab hospitals in Yerushalayim – all steps aimed at prompting the PA to negotiate seriously with Israel. In a social media post, U.S. Special Envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt wrote that he “continues to believe in the importance of building relationships between Israelis and Palestinians, particularly kids. But both Palestinian and Israeli kids will lose, and these programs will be meaningless, if the PA continues to condemn a plan they haven’t seen and refuses to engage on it. Hopefully the PA will lead… let’s see…”

Separately, in an interview with Reuters, PA chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said that he did not believe the U.S. would ever present its much-ballyhooed “deal of the century” – because it had no peace plan. “I don’t think they will ever introduce a plan,” Erekat said in the interview. “The whole world is rejecting their ideas. They are already implementing their plan by changing the terms of reference.”

The talk of a peace plan is just a fig leaf to hide the fact that Washington had decided to accept Israel’s positions on the conflict. “They are telling us ‘peace based on the truth.’ The Kushner truth and the Netanyahu truth is that Yerushalayim is Israel’s capital, no right of return to refugees, settlements are legal, no Palestinian state on 1967 (borders) and Gaza must be separated from the West Bank and this is absolutely unacceptable,” Erekat said. The one contribution of the administration of President Donald Trump, he added, was “just to take Israelis and Palestinians off the path to peace, off the path of the two-state solution.”