U.S. Envoy for Middle East negotiations Jason Greenblatt on a visit in Israel.
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
The US will no longer give money to Gaza that empowers Hamas or funds Palestinian anti-normalization prejudice against Israel, US special envoy Jason Greenblatt said.
“The United States will not use the hard-earned tax dollars of its citizens to subsidize anti-normalization [efforts against Israel] – a failed political philosophy,” Greenblatt told a donor group in New York. “We will not fund a situation that empowers Hamas, an unrepentant terrorist organization. It’s that simple.”
Greenblatt spoke on Thursday to the members of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, a group of countries and institutions that coordinates international financial assistance to the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
The group typically looks for ways to advance donor funding projects. But at this meeting, Greenblatt spoke of why his country had lost faith in such efforts.
His words came on the heels of a US decision to withdraw over half-a-billion dollars in funds it had provided to the Palestinians annually.
In his speech, Greenblatt expanded on the reasons the US halted its financial assistance and warned that other countries would likely follow suit.
Why should the international community struggle to raise money “when everyone can plainly see the Hamas regime and the PA are squandering the opportunities our money provides for a better future for Palestinians,” he said.
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He called on the international community to come up with a new formula to help the Palestinians rather than support what had become a failed process.
The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza need to do much more to help their own people before one would consider providing them with donor funding, he said.
“The Trump administration has closely watched the PA leadership thwart economic improvement for Palestinians in the West Bank and directly challenged them to change their destructive policies or lose American support.
“We have had enough of the status quo. We have had enough of Hamas diverting funds donated by the generous, well-meaning countries sitting around this table, and using those funds for illicit activity,” Greenblatt said. “We have had enough of Hamas taking all of our and your generous donations to the Palestinians and then failing to provide even the most basic services – safe water, electricity and hospitals to those who they purport to govern.” He urged the countries in the room to shun Hamas for the “terrorist organization” that it is.
“We cannot continue to provide aid year after year to areas whose leadership, for political purposes, thwarts our efforts to improve the economic well-being of Palestinians,” Greenblatt said.
It’s time to move beyond the standard talking points, he emphasized, adding that “another hundred resolutions in the UN General Assembly won’t make the lives of Palestinians in Gaza more bearable.”
There are those who may be “uncomfortable with our direct, frank message,” Greenblatt said. “The United States will continue speaking directly and frankly because we must tell the truth. We do this because we care about the Palestinian people and their future.”
Behind closed doors other donor countries are also concerned, and their contributions have also dropped, he said.
“What I hear from other countries in private, will one day be said by them publicly,” Greenblatt said. “I am sure of it, because these financial commitments are simply unsustainable. They are unsustainable for the United States, a country of great wealth and power, and they are certainly also unsustainable for most countries sitting around this table. I urge you all to join us in being direct and frank with the Palestinian Authority about charting a new, sustainable path – one that improves all Palestinian lives.”
Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Marie Eriksen Søreide took the opposite position in addressing the group, warning that without donor support the Palestinian economy could collapse this year. Such an event could have security consequences for Israel and the region, she said.
“At the meeting today, the [Ad Hoc Liaison Committee] agreed to continue its work to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza. Looking further ahead, the economy and infrastructure both need to be improved. Israel must ease restrictions. A political solution for Gaza depends on the divisions between Hamas and Fatah being reconciled and the Palestinian Authority regaining full control of Gaza,” she said.
At the meeting donor countries pledged additional funds to Gaza.
Among those who attended the meeting were Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, Israeli Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.
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