LFI ‘appalled’ after US cuts £7.6m for Israeli-Palestinian coexistence programs

LFI ‘appalled’ after US cuts £7.6m for Israeli-Palestinian coexistence programs

Labour Friends of Israel chair criticises President Donald Trump's administration after it cuts cash for initiatives promoting peace

President Rivlin hosts students and teachers at a school run by Hand in Hand - who promote Israeli-Arab coexistence
President Rivlin hosts students and teachers at a school run by Hand in Hand - who promote Israeli-Arab coexistence

Labour Friends of Israel have condemned the United States for cutting £7.6 million ($10 million) of foreign aid money, supporting coexistence programs between Israelis and Palestinians.

The cuts were first reported Friday in the New York Times, and tt is believed to have been the last remaining U.S. aid for Palestinian civilians.

Joan Ryan MP, and chair of LFI Chair, said: “I am appalled at the Trump administration’s decision to axe funding for coexistence projects. This mean-spirited and counterproductive step will hamper vital work to build bridges between Palestinians and Israelis and thus provide a platform for a future peace agreement. I call upon the UK government to urgently consider ways of working with our European partners to fill the financial gap left by this move.”

In recent weeks, the Trump administration has frozen £19m ($25m)  in funding to Palestinian hospitals in eastern Jerusalem, halted all funding to the UNRWA, United Nations refugee agency that aids Palestinians and  cut more than £152m $200 million for humanitarian and development aid in the West Bank and Gaza.

The portion of the money involving Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip was being redirected to programs between Jewish and Arab Israelis, a U.S. embassy official told the AFP news agency.

In a statement on Friday, the United States Agency for International Development, or U.S.A.I.D., said it is “currently unable to engage Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza as a result of the administration’s recent decision on Palestinian assistance.” The agency said it was “continuing its support for civil society working on these issues within Israel.”

The money already had been budgeted by Congress for allocation in fiscal year 2017, which ends on September 30.

The program, known as the Conflict Management and Mitigation Program, receives a total of £19m ($26m) annually from Congress and was established in 2004 by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont. The other £12m ($16m) is spent elsewhere in the world, according to the Times.

“Senator Leahy regards the decision to cut off funding for the West Bank and Gaza as a sign that this White House has failed at diplomacy,” Tim Rieser, foreign policy aide to Leahy, told the newspaper. “This is not a partisan view. It’s the view of those who recognise that you don’t advance the cause of peace by cutting off programs that are designed to promote tolerance, understanding and address shared problems.”

Aaron David Miller, former Middle East peace negotiator for the United States, criticised the cuts, calling them “cruel, stupid and counterproductive.”

He wrote in a tweet: “Having run Seeds of Peace for several years, what Trump Administration is doing to Israelis and Palestinians is cruel, stupid, and counterproductive. It’s precisely because there is no peace process that you need these P2P programs.” P2P stands for people to people programs.

President Donald Trump earlier this year requested a review of all U.S. aid to the Palestinians, threatening to cut off aid unless the Palestinian Authority agreed to enter into serious peace negotiations with Israel.

The Palestinian Authority has angered Trump by refusing to work with his administration in developing a peace plan. The Palestinians walked away from the talks in December after Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

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