The U.S. said it’s aiding Palestinians hit by the outbreak, but don’t read too much into it

  17 April 2020    Read: 872
The U.S. said it’s aiding Palestinians hit by the outbreak, but don’t read too much into it @Getty Images

A late-night Twitter post by the United States ambassador to Israel, David M. Friedman, on Thursday trumpeted $5 million being provided “for Palestinian hospitals and households to meet immediate, lifesaving needs in combating Covid-19.”

It seemed, at first blush, like a possible reversal in the Trump administration’s longstanding policy of cutting off the spigot of cash to the Palestinians.

Since Mr. Trump took office, the U.S. has eliminated hundreds of millions of dollars in yearly aid to the United Nations aid agency for Palestinian refugees, sharply cut funding to the Palestinian Authority and killed a $25 million yearly grant to the East Jerusalem Hospital Network.

But any suggestion that the administration’s stance toward the Palestinians could be thawing would be a misreading.

Palestinian officials said that their policy of having no contact with the Trump administration remained in force and that they expected the money would be doled out through nongovernmental organizations the Trump administration has not assailed. And a United States Embassy official said the aid would not “prejudge future decisions” about American assistance in the West Bank and Gaza.

The Trump administration provided no detail on where exactly the money would end up or how, other than that it would be spent on the West Bank, not Gaza.

And the aid announced Thursday is also considerably less than the $75 million congressional leaders agreed in December to allocate for civilian and humanitarian programs and institutions not linked to the Palestinian Authority.

Walid Nammour, chief executive of the East Jerusalem Hospital Network, which has been racing to build wards and acquire ventilators to treat a surge of coronavirus patients, said the $5 million amount was so paltry as to be “humiliating.”

“This is really lip service,” he said.

“We’ve missed $75 million over the past three years,” Mr. Nammour added, citing the annual American aid the hospitals network received from 2012 until Mr. Trump took office. “This is too little, too late.”



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