US confirms further Palestinian aid cut

The latest cuts come from $10 million in programmes on reconciliation involving Palestinians as well as Jewish and Arab Israelis.

Children return to school at an establishment run by United Nations Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) in Balata refugee camp, east of Nablus in the occupied West Bank on 29 August 2018, on the first day of classes after the summer holidays. US President Donald Trump cut of more than $200 million in aid for Gaza and the West Bank this month after earlier freezing of $300 million in annual funding for the UNRWA. Picture: AFP

ISRAEL - The United States has cut additional aid to the Palestinians for programmes supporting conflict resolution with Israelis, an official said Sunday, adding to more than $500 million in other cuts.

The latest cuts come from $10 million in programmes on reconciliation involving Palestinians as well as Jewish and Arab Israelis.

The portion of the money involving Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip was being redirected to programmes between Jewish and Arab Israelis, a US embassy official said.

It was not clear how much of the $10 million was being redirected.

US officials also could not confirm whether the latest cut meant all non-security related aid to the Palestinians had now been eliminated.

"As announced in August, the administration redirected more than $200 million that was originally planned for programmes in the West Bank and Gaza," a US embassy official said.

"At the same time, we redirected a portion of the $10 million which was planned for conflict management and mitigation."

The official said the portion involving Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza would be used "to enhance" programmes in Israel instead.

US President Donald Trump has said he will withhold aid from the Palestinians to force them to negotiate as the White House prepares a plan for Middle East peace - what he has called the "ultimate deal".

The Palestinian leadership cut off contact with the White House after Trump recognised the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December.

They accuse Trump of blatant bias in favour of Israel and say he is blackmailing them to force them to accept the White House's terms.

Last week, the US State Department ordered the closure of the Palestinian mission in Washington and on Sunday the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) said the staff had been given until October 13 to finish moving out.

"The employees were ordered to cease all operations, close down all bank accounts, and they were told that there would be no renewal of the lease. The staff was given until October 13 to vacate the premises," the PLO said in a statement.

It said the US authorities had also revoked the visas of the wife of the Palestinian mission head and his two young children, aged five and seven.

They had already left the United States last week, it said.

Mission head Husam Zomlot was recalled to Ramallah by Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in May in protest at the US embassy Jerusalem move.

Senior PLO official Hanan Ashrawi said in the statement that the decision to cancel the Zomlot family visa was an "inhumane escalation".

"This vindictive action by the Trump administration is spiteful," she wrote. "The US has taken its attempts to pressure and blackmail the Palestinians to a new level."

In recent weeks, the US government has announced more than $500 million in cuts in Palestinian aid, including cancelling support for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.

It has maintained security-related aid, having provided $61 million in assistance this year.