US President Donald Trump receives a briefing from senior military leadership at the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, DC April 9, 2018. .
(photo credit: CARLOS BARRIA / REUTERS)
The Trump administration has frozen $25 million in funding to Palestinian hospitals in east Jerusalem as part of its punitive campaign against the Palestinian Authority for refusing to participate in its peace effort.
A US State Department official confirmed the plan this week to redirect the funds to other unspecified “priorities,” shortly after US President Donald Trump halted funding to the UN Relief and Works Agency, cut $200 million in aid to Gaza and the West Bank and warned of a complete end to all funding of Palestinian causes unless the PA enters meaningful negotiations with Israel.
The East Jerusalem Hospital Network, which comprises six hospitals, has routinely received US aid. And in legislating threats of aid cuts to the Palestinians, Congress has always made exemptions for humanitarian care, such as hospital funding.
Palestinian officials shut down communications with the White House in the wake of Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last year.
A PA official said that, as a result of the hospital funding cuts, Ramallah would double down on its boycott of the administration and its pending peace plan.
“The new US policy aims to liquidate the Palestinian cause under false and meager pretexts through the so-called ‘Deal of the Century,’” the Palestinian Authority Foreign Ministry said in a statement it published on the Palestinian Wafa news agency.
“This dangerous and unjustified American escalation has crossed all red lines and is considered a direct aggression against the Palestinian people, including the humanitarian aspect, since it threatens the lives of thousands of Palestinian patients and their families, and could affect the future and livelihoods of thousands of employees of these hospitals,” the ministry said.
Makassed Hospital director Bassam Abu Libdeh said his institution in east Jerusalem was already in financial crisis.
“The hospital’s share of the total US grant is NIS 45 million ($12.5 million), which helps a great deal its various departments and the provision of services for its patients who come from the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and occupied Jerusalem,” he said, according to Wafa.
Former USAID Assistant Administrator David Harden, who worked in the West Bank and Gaza, said among the institutions due to lose funds are Augusta Victoria Hospital and St. John of Jerusalem Eye Hospital.
He tweeted, “These are Christian hospitals, Israeli-licensed, culturally Palestinian,” and noted that just a few months ago, “the White House had fired career staff for not moving fast enough on bilateral assistance to the Christians in Iraq.”
“This decision could cause the collapse of these two respected hospitals serving the Palestinian community,” Harden said.
These hospitals also worked very closely with Hadassah and Shaare Zedek medical centers in west Jerusalem, Harden said.
In a Thursday telephone conversation with US rabbis in advance of the new year, US President Donald Trump said that he was using such financial assistance as leverage to return the Palestinians to the negotiating table.
“I stopped massive amounts of money that we were paying to the Palestinians and the Palestinian leaders. We were — the United States was paying them tremendous amounts of money. And I’d say, you’ll get money, but we’re not paying you until we make a deal. If we don’t make a deal, we’re not paying,” Trump said.
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