Russian embassy in TA slams Trump for closing PLO mission, cutting UNRWA funding

Tel Aviv mission also calls for increased Israeli-Palestinian dialog, amid tensions with Jerusalem over Syrian downing of Russian spy plane during Israeli strike

The Russian Embassy on Hayarkon Street in Tel Aviv. (Google maps)
The Russian Embassy on Hayarkon Street in Tel Aviv. (Google maps)

Russia’s embassy in Tel Aviv on Thursday excoriated the US for closing the PLO mission in Washington and for cutting funding for Palestinian refugees and hospitals in East Jerusalem, amid tensions between Moscow and Jerusalem over the Syrian downing of a Russian spy plane following an Israeli missile strike on a Syrian weapons facility.

“[The] closure of PLO office in Washington, US decisions on Jerusalem testify to attempts to undermine the well-known international basis for the Israeli-Palestinian settlement,” the mission wrote in a statement on its Twitter account. “We don’t understand recent funding cessation to UNRWA, refusal to help hospitals in Eastern Jerusalem.”

In a second tweet, the mission repeated Moscow’s offer to help mediate between Jerusalem and Ramallah.

“There are no (almost) political contacts between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” read the tweet. “Efforts to launch direct Israeli-Palestinian dialogue should be increased. In this regard Russia initiative to host a meeting between Israel and Palestine leaders remains relevant.”

On Thursday the embassy in Tel Aviv slammed Israel for the Monday downing of the plane, pinning the blame squarely on the Israeli Air Force. This, despite the fact that on Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin had absolved Israel of direct responsibility for the incident.

A senior Israeli army official said Friday “improvements” may be made to the Israeli military’s coordination with Russia over its operations in Syria after a Russian reconnaissance plane, with 15 crew members on board, was shot down by Syrian air defenses.

The official said an Israeli military delegation to Moscow had answered Russia’s questions over Monday’s incident, including debunking the false notion that the Israeli jets had hidden behind the Russian plane. Israel also clarified that its attack planes had left the area before the Syrians fired the missile that downed the Russian plane.

The Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington ceased operations last week following a demand by the United States to shut down in a bid to pressure the Palestinians to enter peace talks with Israel.

The move to not grant the mission its normal six-month renewal came after Palestinian leaders allegedly breached the arrangement by calling for Israeli officials to be prosecuted at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Prior to ordering the mission’s closure, the United States cut more than $200 million in aid to the Palestinians and canceled its support for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.

The US has also halted $25 million in aid to East Jerusalem hospitals, leading to warnings of the “collapse” of medical centers that provide crucial care to Palestinians.

Alessia Dinkel, the State Department spokeswoman, told National Public Radio the $25 million for the East Jerusalem Hospital Network would instead go toward other “priorities.”

A girl stands at the entrance of a school run by United Nations Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) in Balata refugee camp, east of Nablus in the West Bank on August 29, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Jaafar ASHTIYEH)

The network, which is made up of six hospitals in East Jerusalem, provides healthcare such as cancer treatment and surgeries for Palestinians to whom such medical assistance is unavailable in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, according to the World Health Organization.

Trump said earlier this month that aid to the Palestinians will remain withheld until the Palestinians “make a deal with Israel.”

None of the cuts, however, directly targeted aid meant for the internationally recognized PA, which last month received some $42 million in frozen funds for security cooperation with Israel.

Though hailed by Israeli politicians, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the cuts are said to be opposed by defense officials, who fear they could fuel Palestinian unrest and in turn jeopardize Israel’s security.

The PA has boycotted the Trump administration and rebuffed its peace efforts since the US president’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December of last year. The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem — which Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed — as the capital of their future state.

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