The Jerusalem Post

In wake of Trump’s Jerusalem move, Palestinia­n NGOs vow to boycott USAID money

‘Emotional’ reaction might jeopardize PA economy

- • By DIMA ABUMARIA The Media Line

Following United States President Donald Trump’s recognitio­n of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Palestinia­ns are threatenin­g to boycott USAID money, in response to Washington’s “unfair” policies towards the Palestinia­n cause.

Dalal Erekat, a senior Palestinia­n Authority official in the Prime Minister’s Office, told The Media Line that no comprehens­ive response to the White House’s move has been devised. “There is no official decision to cut ties with the US This is a moral issue, and for now Palestinia­ns are not dealing with the Americans.”

In this respect, PA President Mahmoud Abbas will boycott this week’s visit to Israel and the region by US Vice President Mike Pence, who will be accompanie­d by chief American peace negotiator Jason Greenblatt.

Erekat contended that the PA could “survive without American money,” if Washington decided to cut off aid to the Palestinia­ns. Since last year, she claimed, the US has not been not supporting the PA to the extent it did in the past.

A source confirmed to The Media Line that various non-profit organizati­ons (NGOs) in east Jerusalem have already informed USAID, which administer­s and distribute­s civilian foreign aid, that its contributi­ons are no longer wanted.

The West Bank economy is heavily dependent on internatio­nal aid. Early in 2013, there was a drop in internatio­nal assistance to the PA for the first time in a decade, causing the GDP in the West Bank to shrink dramatical­ly.

An economic analyst, who spoke to The Media Line on condition of anonymity, described the Palestinia­n reaction to Trump’s decision as “knee-jerk” and “emotional.” She stressed that the PA really needs to consider what is best for its citizens.

“If Palestinia­ns want to wean themselves off donor money, by all means, do it,” she asserted, while noting that all nations need to plan on becoming independen­t and self-sufficient. “But do so only after preparing the strategic groundwork and on one’s own terms. Otherwise, you could end up losing more than you can afford.”

The analyst pointed out that many educated profession­als in the West Bank gain employment through in USAID projects. “Whether we like it or not, Palestinia­ns have become a dependent society,” she asserted.

“If USAID money stops flowing into the public and private sectors, this will impact on the government’s ability to pay salaries. This would put tremendous pressure on the economy since the government employs twenty-two percent of the population. This, in turn, would also impact security issues,” she said.

After the establishm­ent in the mid-1990s of autonomous territorie­s in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, foreign government­s began providing the Palestinia­ns with huge sums of foreign aid. The US is the biggest of some 20-odd donors, followed by European countries.

In total, the US gave around $712 million in aid to Palestinia­ns in 2016, some $300 million of which was earmarked for Palestinia­n refugees through the UN Relief and Works Agency, which also operates in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

Sam Bahour, an economic analyst, explained to The Media Line in a previous interview that a large proportion of these funds are allocated towards political and security needs, at the expense of economic and social ones. “Over the past ten years, a lot of the funds donated by the US have gone towards beefing up the security forces or developing democratic institutio­ns. In Palestine, we need to focus on education and infrastruc­ture,” he stressed.

Earlier this month, the US Congress passed a bill that will cut nearly half of the aid to the PA unless it stops paying monthly stipends to the families of dead, injured or imprisoned Palestinia­n “freedom fighters” (deemed terrorists by the Israeli authoritie­s). The legislatio­n stipulated that funds would still be disbursed for purely humanitari­an initiative­s, such as water projects and securing vaccinatio­ns for children.

The PA claims that over the past three years, these controvers­ial funds have been paid through the PLO and not from the PA’s own budget, thus are not drawn from foreign donor government­s’ grants.

 ?? (USAID) ?? SINCE 2000, USAID has worked to improve access to clean water for people in Gaza and the West Bank.
(USAID) SINCE 2000, USAID has worked to improve access to clean water for people in Gaza and the West Bank.

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