Palestinians: 'We will not surrender to U.S. blackmail'

Saeb Erekat denounced the decision as “disgraceful” and accused the US administration of “meddling in the internal affairs of other people in an attempt to impact their national options.”

August 25, 2018 17:25
3 minute read.
PALESTINIANS CELEBRATE Nakba Day at Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate in 2014

PALESTINIANS CELEBRATE Nakba Day at Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate in 2014. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Palestinian officials on Saturday condemned the US administration for its decision to cut more than $200 million in economic aid to the Palestinians, and said they will not surrender to “American blackmail.”

On Friday, a US official said President Donald Trump had ordered the State Department to “redirect” the funding for programs in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to unspecified “high-priority projects elsewhere.”

According to the official, the decision took into account “the challenges the international community faces in providing assistance in Gaza, where Hamas control endangers the lives of Gaza’s citizens and degrades an already dire humanitarian and economic situation.”

PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat denounced the decision as “disgraceful,” and accused the US administration of “meddling in the internal affairs of other people in an attempt to impact their national options.”

The financial aid, he said, was not a “favor to the Palestinians, but a due duty of the international 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.”

Erekat said by slashing the funds, the US was “insisting on abandoning this international commitment, as it had previously abandoned its commitment to international resolutions, especially with regards to the issues of Jerusalem and refugees.”

Another senior PLO official, Hanan Ashrawi, accused the US administration of using “cheap blackmail as a political tool.”

The Palestinians and their leadership, she said, “will not be intimidated and will not succumb to coercion. The rights of the Palestinian people are not for sale.”

Ashrawi said that there is “no glory in constantly bullying and punishing a people under occupation.” The US administration, she charged, “has already demonstrated meanness of spirit in its collusion with the Israeli occupation and its theft of land and resources.”

She accused the US administration of exercising “economic meanness by punishing the Palestinian victims of this occupation.”

Husam Zomlot, head of the PLO delegation to the US, also condemned the US decision and accused the Americans of “political blackmail.”

The US administration, he said, “is dismantling decades of US vision and engagement in Palestine. After Jerusalem and UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees), this is another confirmation of abandoning the two-state solution and fully embracing [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s anti-peace agenda.”

Zomlot said that “weaponizing humanitarian and developmental aid as political blackmail does not work. Only a recommitment from this administration to the long-held US policy of achieving peace through the two-state solution on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem the capital of the state of Palestine and respecting international resolutions and law, will provide a way forward.”

The Palestinian National Council (PNC), the PLO’s legislative body, said the US decision was an extension of the “war of financial sanctions practiced by the Trump administration against our people and their leadership” to force them to accept the US president’s yet-to-be-announced plan for peace in the Middle East.

“The American policy of blackmail and pressure will never succeed,” the PNC said in a statement. “The Palestinian people and their leadership are committed to the principles of our cause, first and foremost, the right of return of Palestinian refugees to their homes, and the establishment of an independent and sovereign state with Jerusalem as its capital. The dignity and rights of the people are not subject to bargain. The US administration is proving every day that it is in full partnership with the Israeli occupation’s policies and crimes.”

The Trump administration has previously cut aid to several UN bodies devoted to the Palestinian cause, including UNRWA and the Human Rights Council.

The PA cut off communications with the White House after Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last December, relocating the US Embassy there.

Michael Wilner contributed to this report.

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