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US cuts aid to Palestinians by $80 million as a “message” to Abbas

The Levant News — Al-monitor reported that the Obama administration is cutting aid to the Palestinians by $80 million in what congressional sources describe as a “message” to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

The State Department notified 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, Al-Monitor has learned. The news of the 22% cut from the department’s initial request follows mounting criticism from Congress about Palestinian “incitement” in the rash of stabbing attacks that have left at least 10 Israeli civilians dead over the past three weeks.

“We need to dial up pressure on Palestinian officials to repudiate this violence,” said Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The committee voted unanimously Oct. 22 on a resolution taking Abbas and other Palestinian leaders to task for “incitement” of violence against Jewish Israelis, both for recent statements that Israel wants to change the status quo on the Temple Mount and for longtime hate-mongering in Palestinian schools and media. While some Israeli right-wingers such as Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel have advocated for more Jewish access to the controversial site, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has largely maintained the status quo.

The aid cut is a “good first step,” House foreign aid panel chairwoman Kay Granger, R-Texas, told Al-Monitor. She wrote a letter to Abbas along with ranking member Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., on Tuesday warning him that US aid would be “severely jeopardized” if Abbas refuses direct negotiations.

Granger has a hold on the aid request, congressional aides told Al-Monitor, along with House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., as they seek more information from the State Department.

The State Department did not respond to requests for comment.

Source: www.al-monitor.com

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