UNITED STATES lawmakers have been ordered to slash economic aid for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as punishment for weeks of violent protests by Palestinians against Israeli policy.
The Al-Monitor online news site posted details of the 22% cut two days ago.
The decision was made after a resolution by pro-Israel Republican congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was sent to the Committee on Foreign Affairs.
The aid cut won the approval of the pro-Israel House Foreign Aid panel chairwoman Kay Granger, who states on her website: “The U.S. must do all we can to support our closest ally in the Middle East, Israel”.
Called: “Expressing concern over anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement within the Palestinian Authority”, Ms Ros-Lehtinen’s resolution said “incitement” by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority, and even Palestinian television was to blame for the current youth uprising.
Her resolution was unanimously passed
At a hearing on October 22 prior to the vote, Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce had said: “Given that about one-third of the Palestinian Authority’s budget is financed through foreign aid, international donors have leverage.
“They could follow the lead of the US Congress — and make direct funding of the PA off limits until the incitement stops.”
But he, too, actively supports Israel.
Mr Royce met Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel in 2013, and said afterwards: “ We are in this together. As Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I am committed to working with our ally.”
With reference to the aid cuts, Al-Monitor reported: “The State Department told lawmakers on Sept. 25 of its intention to reduce economic aid for the West Bank and Gaza Strip from $370 million to $290 million in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.”
The move was strongly backed by Republican congressman Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He said: “We need to dial up pressure on Palestinian officials to repudiate this violence.”
He is a member of the Israel Allies Foundation.
She wrote a letter to Abbas along with another ranking member, Republican Nita Lowey.
Ms Lowey is another staunch pro-Israel supporter, commenting on nearly every twist and turn of matters concerning the country in a string of articles on her website.
The pair warned Mr Abbas on Tuesday that US aid would be “severely jeopardized” if he refused direct negotiations.
Congressional aides told Al-Monitor, that Ms Granger has a hold on the aid request, along with Mr Royce, as they seek more information from the State Department.
The New York Times reported in June that under a memorandum of understanding lasting until 2018, the U.S. provides Israel with $3 billion per year in aid, most of which is used to buy military equipment such as jets.
An official familiar with ongoing negotiations also told the newspaper that Israel has recently asked for a new aid agreement, worth between $4.2 and $4.5 billion per year for 10 years.
The State Department did not respond to requests for comment.