US cuts aid to Palestinians by more than $200 million

(PA) Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

The Trump administration has decided to cut more than $200 million (£155 million) in bilateral assistance to the Palestinians, following a review of the funding for projects in the West Bank and Gaza, according to US officials.

The State Department notified Congress of the decision on Friday, according to the officials and aides.

But in a brief, three-paragraph notice sent to politicians, the department said it will redirect the money to “high-priority projects elsewhere”.

The move comes as President Donald Trump and his Middle East envoys, Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, staff up their office to prepare for the roll-out of a much-vaunted peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians.

“At the direction of President Trump, we have undertaken a review of U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority and in the West Bank and Gaza to ensure these funds are spent in accordance with US national interests and provide value to the US taxpayer,” the State Department said in the notice.

“As a result of that review, at the direction of the President, we will redirect more than $200 million … originally planned for programs in the West Bank and Gaza,” it said.

“This decision takes 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,” the notice said.

The notice did not give an exact amount of the funds to be cut, but says it is more than $200 million that was approved in 2017.

The US had planned to give the Palestinians $251 million for good governance, health, education and funding for civil society in the current budget year that ends on September 30.

But with just over a month to go before that money must be used, reprogrammed to other areas or returned to Treasury, less than half has actually been spent.