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After 25 years, USAID Palestinian mission set to close at end of month

A Palestinian man stands next to an USAID billboard in the Halhoul neighborhood of the West Bank town of Hebron, Monday, Dec. 17, 2007.
AP Photos/Kevin Frayer
USAID began operating in West Bank and Gaza in 1994, with an emphasis on economic growth and infrastructure

All the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) projects in the West Bank and Gaza Strip will completely shut down at the end of the month following a decision last year by US President Donald Trump to cut funding to the Palestinians.

Dave Harden, former USAID Mission Director and Managing Director of the Georgetown Strategy Group, confirmed the mission’s closure in the Palestinian authorities, lamenting the administration's short-sighted decision that he described in a tweet as “Another example of the end of the two state solution.”

Harden said the decision "demonstrates again a lack of nuance, sophistication, and appreciation for the complexity of the situation,” arguing that it will only harm the United States and Israel as it leaves greater space for Hamas to further exert its influence.  

“Who suffers when USAID leaves schools and water systems unfinished? Palestinians, of course, but also Israelis and Americans. The administration just gave Hamas more running room.”

In the Gaza Strip, which is ruled by the Islamist group, around 80 percent of the two million residents rely on international aid.

The Palestinian enclave has been on the brink of a humanitarian crisis, and just this week alarm was raised over a severe fuel crisis as Israel has yet to transfer the third installment of 15$ million in Qatari funds following a rocket launched from the strip last week.

AP Photo/ Khalil Hamra, File

US Aid staff on the ground have already left the country with their families after being informed of the decision to terminate all projects on January 31, 2019, and most will be laid off according to a report from NPR published Thursday.

The White House blocked an emergency attempt to finish major U.S.-financed school, water and sewage projects in both the West Bank and Gaza, NPR reported, including a nearly complete multimillion-dollar sewage network in Jericho that will have to be abandoned and a $1.4 million school facility under construction in the Bethlehem area.   

"To abandon schools and water systems while in the midst of construction represents the worst instincts of this administration," said Dave Harden, who oversaw U.S. aid programs in the Palestinian territories under the Obama administration. "This peace team has no shame."

Former US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro also responded disappointingly, pointing out that the move is a waste of resources that will only undermine the security and economy of the Palestinian territories.

“If accurate, an unbelievably short-sighted move. It cuts off programs that have improved econ &security conditions for Pals & Israelis. It breaks up a highly experienced professional team. And we'll just have to rebuild the mission all over again in the next Admin, at great cost,” Shapiro wrote in a Tweet Thursday.

Harden echoed the former ambassador's remarks that a "new" mission would initiated from the "ashes" that would be "1/4 the size w no funding and no projects," he wrote in a Tweet. 

USAID began operating in the West Bank and Gaza in 1994, with an emphasis on economic growth and infrastructure; water, health and education; and governance and civil engagement.

The gradual shutdown of the agency comes as the United States’ previously generous federal aid to the Palestinians has been reduced to a trickle by a series of punitive measures taken by the Trump administration against the Palestinians, who have been refusing to play ball with the US’s efforts to negotiate a peace deal with Israel.

In June, i24NEWS reported the West Bank and Gaza office of USAID had not received its budget for the upcoming fiscal year and therefore was therefore unable to put its projects out to tender.

In August, the Trump administration announced it was slashing millions of dollars in support to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), accusing the Palestinian aid agency of perpetuating the Middle East conflict by perpetuating the idea that millions of Palestinians are refugees with a right to return to homes in what is today Israel.

Millions of dollars have also been cut for bilateral aid to the Palestinians for projects in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, including to hospitals in east Jerusalem.

The cuts were meant to pressure the Palestinians back to the negotiating table after efforts to negotiate Trump’s “deal of the century” came to a screeching halt with the United States’ recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last December.



It is about time.

Which schools and water systems? Last time I checked Hamas was using schools as rockets depots and firing pods.

Rebuild the mission on the next Administration

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