The US Agency for International Development (USAID) has ended all assistance to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, a US official said on Friday.
The decision was linked to a January 31 deadline set by new US legislation under which foreign aid recipients would be more exposed to anti-terrorism lawsuits.
The deadline also sees the end of some $60 million in US aid for the Palestinian security forces, whose cooperation with Israeli forces helps maintain relative quiet in the West Bank.
Congress’ Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act (ATCA) empowers Americans to sue foreign aid recipients in US courts over alleged complicity in “acts of war.” The Palestinians have declined further US funding, worried about legal jeopardy.
“At the request of the Palestinian Authority, we have wound down certain projects and programs funded with assistance under the authorities specified in ATCA in the West Bank and Gaza,” a US official told Reuters on Friday.
“All USAID assistance in the West Bank and Gaza has ceased.”
The official said no steps were being taken to close the USAID mission in the Palestinian territories, and no decision had been made about future staffing at the USAID mission in the US Embassy in Jerusalem.
Suspension of aid will create a ‘negative atmosphere’
USAID is the main agency administering US foreign assistance in the Palestinian territories.
According to its website, the agency spent $268 million on public projects in the West Bank and Gaza as well as Palestinian private sector debt repayment in 2017, but there were significant cuts to all new funding through the end of June 2018.
Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said: “The suspension of aid to our people, which included critical sectors such as health and education, will have a negative impact on all, create a negative atmosphere, and increase instability.”
The Palestinian Authority is an interim self-government body set up following the 1993 Oslo peace accords. The peace process, aimed at finding a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has been stalled since 2014.
In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Ismail Rudwan condemned the stopping of aid, deploring what he called “politicized money.”