Trump threat to cut aid to Palestinians carries risks

Published: Wednesday, January 03, 2018 @ 3:22 PM
Updated: Wednesday, January 03, 2018 @ 3:20 PM

            FILE - In this May 3, 2017 file photo, President Donald Trump and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas arrive in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington. With a Twitter post on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018, threatening to cut off U.S. aid to the Palestinians, Trump has expressed his frustration over the lack of progress in his hoped-for Mideast peace push. But things could deteriorate even further if Trump follows through on the threat. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
FILE - In this May 3, 2017 file photo, President Donald Trump and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas arrive in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington. With a Twitter post on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018, threatening to cut off U.S. aid to the Palestinians, Trump has expressed his frustration over the lack of progress in his hoped-for Mideast peace push. But things could deteriorate even further if Trump follows through on the threat. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

With a Twitter post threatening to cut off U.S. aid to the Palestinians, President Donald Trump has expressed his frustration over the lack of progress in his hoped-for Mideast peace push. But things could deteriorate even further if Trump follows through on the threat.

Over two decades of on-and-off peace talks, the U.S., Israel and the Palestinians have created a situation of interdependence, with American mediation at the core of this system.

A cutoff in aid would almost certainly harm the Palestinians, particularly those who rely on U.N. refugee services. But Trump's credibility, damaged with the Palestinians after recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital, would suffer another blow. And in a worst-case scenario, Israel could find itself footing the bill to provide services to millions of Palestinians while heading closer toward a single binational state with the Palestinians.

Here is a look at U.S. aid to the Palestinians, and the potential implications of that funding drying up.

Q: What aid does the U.S. provide to the Palestinians?

The Palestinian Authority relies heavily on foreign assistance. It receives hundreds of millions of dollars a year from the international community, and the U.S. is a major donor.

The U.S., in contrast to other donors, does not provide direct funding for the Palestinian budget. Instead, its assistance focuses on development projects.

According to the U.S. Consulate, the U.S. has delivered about $5.2 billion in aid to the Palestinians since 1994, with the current level at roughly $400 million a year. This money goes to fund roads, schools, water projects, hospitals and health care, and to help support the Palestinian security forces.

In addition, the U.S. is the largest donor to UNRWA, the U.N. agency that assists Palestinian refugees across the region with services such as housing, health care, education and food assistance. UNRWA says the U.S. contributed over $365 million last year, roughly 30 percent of the agency's budget.

Q: Is the money promised by formal agreement?

There is no formal aid agreement with the Palestinian Authority. The administration requests funds each year that are then approved by Congress.

The Palestinian Authority was established in 1994 as an autonomy government meant to last five years as a prelude to a final peace deal establishing an independent Palestinian state. But after years of failed negotiations and several waves of violence, what was meant to be a temporary arrangement has become permanent.

Today, the U.S. sends little money directly to the Palestinian Authority amid concerns, expressed by U.S. officials and congressmen, that the Palestinians were not doing enough to halt violence, incitement or corruption. Most funds are typically earmarked for projects coordinated through the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Trump's latest Tweet, however, appears to stem from anger over the U.N. General Assembly's vote last month that overwhelmingly rejected his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

The Palestinians, who seek Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem as their capital, say the U.S. is no longer a suitable mediator, and Trump's Mideast diplomacy appears frozen.

At the time of the U.N. vote, Trump warned that countries that backed the Palestinians risked losing American aid. This week, he also took aim at aid to Pakistan, a country that voted with the Palestinians.

Q: Could the Palestinians get alternative funding?

Since Trump's Jerusalem decision, the Palestinians have been seeking to rally diplomatic support both in Europe and across the Arab world. They would likely turn to the European Union and wealthy Gulf Arab states for financial support as well, though it is far from certain others will step up to fill the void.

Q: What are the implications if the aid is cut off?

The Palestinians have been grappling with reductions in aid from cash-strapped donors for several years, and officials say they can also withstand a U.S. cut-off, especially because the money does not go to their operating budget.

"The Palestinian Authority is not going to collapse if the U.S. stops paying its aid, but it will create more difficulties," said Mohammed Mustafa, an economic adviser to President Mahmoud Abbas.

In the short term, the biggest casualty would be UNRWA. The agency provides services to some 5 million Palestinian refugees and their descendants across the Middle East. The agency, for instance, educates an estimated 270,000 children in Gaza. If schools were forced to close, these children could end up in classrooms run by the ruling Hamas militant group. UNRWA might also be forced to lay off workers in a volatile territory where unemployment already is over 40 percent.

In the long run, things could become even more dire. The Trump administration, already seen as biased by the Palestinians, could have a difficult time bringing them back to the negotiating table as it prepares to float a peace proposal.

Reductions in funding for Palestinian security forces could, ironically, hurt Israeli security. These forces quietly cooperate with Israel in a shared fight against Hamas. For this reason, U.S. officials say security assistance will likely not be touched.

A collapse of the Palestinian Authority, already buckling under hundreds of millions of dollars of debt, could be disastrous for Israel. As an occupying power, Israel could find itself responsible for the welfare and education of over 4 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

The Palestinians also might follow through on threats to abandon their dream of establishing an independent state alongside Israel and instead seek equal rights in a single, binational state. This scenario could spell the end of Israel as a democracy with a broad Jewish majority.


AP correspondents Mohammed Daraghmeh in Ramallah, West Bank, and Karin Laub in Amman, Jordan, contributed to this report.

Must see: Europeans battle deadly winds in Germany, Netherlands

Published: Friday, January 19, 2018 @ 12:11 PM

At Least 8 Dead After Storm Devastates Netherlands, Germany

At least eight people have died after deadly winds blew through Europe.

Two firefighters are among the victims of the hurricane-strength winds that damaged buildings and tore trees from the ground, the BBC reported.

Travel was delayed due to the storm.

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Germany’s Deutsche Bahn stopped running trains on Thursday, but restarted long-distance runs on Friday, according to media reports.

The storm is being considered one of the strongest storms to hit the country in 11 years, CNN reported.

Amsterdam’s air traffic was shut down after two of three terminals were closed when roof plates were blown off the building, CNN reported.

In other parts of Europe, users posted photos of damage to social media. 

Hopping wallaby stops traffic on Australian highway

Published: Tuesday, January 16, 2018 @ 10:34 AM

WATCH: Police Chase Hopping Suspect

A wallaby hopping down a highway is not something you see everyday, but that’s exactly what happened Tuesday in Sydney, Australia.

The marsupial found its way onto the road, making drivers wonder what they were seeing as they crossed the Sydney Harbor Bridge, ABC News in Australia reported.

Some described the animal as a kangaroo, including traffic controllers with the Transport Management Center.

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“Traffic controllers had quite a surprise early this morning when we saw a kangaroo making its way down lane No. 8 of Sydney Harbour Bridge, coming from the north side,” Dave Wright told ABC News.

“It basically continued to hop, making its way from lane 8 all the way over to lane 1 ... down the Cahill Expressway and down to Macquarie Street,” Wright said.

Officers were able to corner the animal which turned out to be a male adult swamp wallaby. It was taken to a vet who checked it out. It had a few scratches on its face and hind legs, but had no major injuries, 9 News reported.

Some believe the wallaby may have come from a nearby golf course, but groundskeepers and golfers said they’ve never seen a wallaby or kangaroo on the course before, 9 News reported.

Wallabies at Cockle Creek at the overnight camp during The Cadbury Schweppes Mark Webber Challenge November 13, 2003 in Tasmania, Australia.

Reporter ‘attacked’ by lemurs during report

Published: Friday, January 12, 2018 @ 8:33 AM

WATCH: Reporter "Attacked" By Lemurs During Report

A reporter apparently never heard the saying about not working with animals or children, but thank goodness he didn’t, because we wouldn’t have the Friday laughs some may need.

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Alexander Dunlop was supposed to do a quick standup about England’s Banham Zoo’s annual counting of the park’s animals. 

But it didn’t go as planned.

A group of lemurs, called a conspiracy, yes really, a conspiracy of lemurs, had a plan to attack Dunlop, ABC News reported.

Brave lemur fans can have a “lemur encounter” and get up close and personal with the wild animals.

FILE PHOTO: A lemur jumps from a tree in Antananarivo, Madagascar. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)(David Rogers/Getty Images)

Princess Charlotte is learning second language at age of 2

Published: Friday, January 12, 2018 @ 7:35 AM

Fun Facts about Princess Charlotte

Experts say the best time to learn a second language is when you’re young, and apparently Prince William and Duchess Katherine are following suit, allowing Princess Charlotte to start learning Spanish.

It doesn’t hurt that she’s a member of the royal family and her nanny has been working with the little princess.

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Metro reported that Princess Charlotte has been learning Spanish phrases from nanny Maria Teresa Turrion Borrallo. 

And the 2-year-old isn’t alone in expanding her vocabulary. Prince George is said to be able to count to 10 in Spanish, Metro reported

Princess Charlotte recently started full-time nursery school at Willcocks Nursery School in London, the Associated Press reported.

In this handout picture provided by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Britain's Princess Charlotte smiles as she prepares for her first day of nursery at the Willcocks Nursery School, in London, Monday, Jan. 8, 2018. (Duchess of Cambridge via AP)(The Duchess of Cambridge/AP)

She turns 3 in May and is fourth in line to the throne, behind Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince George, the AP reported

Prince George started primary school in September at Thomas’s Battersea, Metro reported.

Experts at Cornell have studied the learning of languages and have found that the earlier children learn a second language, the more likely they will be able to speak like a native speaker.