US cuts aid to Palestinians, cites policy differences

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Fishing boats are seen at the seaport of Gaza City August 15, 2018.

The funds, which were originally planned for programmes in West Bank and Gaza, would be redirected to "high-priority projects elsewhere", the official said.

US President Donald Trump's administration is resorting to "cheap blackmail" against the Palestinians, revealing its true intentions by cutting more than US$200 million in aid for the West Bank and Gaza Strip, senior Palestinian officials said Saturday.

Asked where the money would be redirected and whether it would go to other Palestinian projects, another State Department official said: "We will work with Congress to redirect these funds to other policy priorities".

Relations between the USA administration and the Palestinian Authority took a nosedive after Trump in December made a decision to recognise the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

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Also on Friday, the UNRWA head suggested that the USA had slashed the agency's budget to punish the Palestinians for their criticism of Washington's recognition of Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel's "capital". -Palestinian relations. President Trump froze the aid money early this year, after the Palestinian Authority protested his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Soon after coming to office past year, Trump tapped son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner and attorney Jason Greenblatt to find a way to entice Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table after the last attempt at talks crumbled in 2014. A decision on when the initiative would be rolled out has not yet been made.

In a statement released on Thursday, Qatar's Ministry of Foreign Affairs called on the worldwide community to put an end to the humanitarian disaster, warning that the silence of the global community and the lack of action could worsen the situation in Gaza.

"Now it is exercising economic meanness by punishing the Palestinian victims of this occupation".

Another senior PLO official, Hanan Ashrawi, accused the U.S. administration of using "cheap blackmail as a political tool".

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The primary goal of the Qatari efforts is to end the injustice the Palestinian people are being subjected to and to support them, which requires contacts and meetings with all parties, the statement said, pointing out that Qatar has nothing to hide in this regard, especially when humanitarian mediation is taking place.

"The use of humanitarian and development aid as a tool of political blackmail, will not work", he added.

The announcement does not include some $65 million in frozen USA funding for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, which provides services to Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan and Lebanon.

Bolton also took a swipe at the Palestinian Authority on Wednesday, suggesting there was little to choose between it and the militant group Hamas, which controls Gaza.

The financial aid, he said, was not a "favor to the Palestinians, but a due duty of the global community that bears responsibility for the continuation of the occupation, which is blocking the possibility of development and growth of the Palestinian economy and society".

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UNRWA was founded in 1949 after the first Arab-Israel war, which led to 700,000 Palestinians being forced to leave their homes or flee.

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