US cutting aid to Palestinians by $80m in reported ‘message’ to Abbas

US cutting aid to Palestinians by $80m in reported ‘message’ to Abbas

Annual economic assistance to drop from $370m to $290m amid rising Congressional criticism over Palestinian incitement, al-Monitor reports

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks with journalists at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah on October 6, 2015. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks with journalists at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah on October 6, 2015. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)

The US State Department is cutting its economic aid to the Palestinian Authority from $370 million to $290 million annually, in a “message” to PA President Mahmoud Abbas over recent Palestinian incitement amid a relentless wave of terror attacks against Israeli civilians and security forces, according to al-Monitor.

The 22 percent cut for the 2015 fiscal year comes amid rising criticism from Congress to act on inciting statements from PA officials in recent weeks in the wake of almost 50 separate terror attacks in just over three weeks.

“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,” the report said.

On Thursday, the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously called on Palestinians to end incitement against Israel.

The non-binding resolution passed after a hearing on Palestinian incitement says “the Palestinian Authority has not fully lived up to its prior agreements with Israel to end incitement and should do more to prepare the Palestinian people for peace with Israel.”

It “urges President [Mahmoud] Abbas and Palestinian Authority officials to discontinue all official incitement and exert influence to discourage anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement in Palestinian civil society.”

The hearing was convened by committee chairman, Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA)

“This wave of violence isn’t some random flare-up,” said Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), the top Democrat on the committee, at the hearing, “It’s the product of years and years of anti-Israel propaganda and indoctrination — some of which has been actively promoted by Palestinian Authority officials and institutions.”

Palestinian attacks on Israelis have become a near-daily occurrence in recent weeks, amid tensions over the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism and the third-holiest in Islam. Driving the tensions in part have been Palestinian allegations that Israel is planning to alter the regulations at the site, which houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, and allow Jews to pray there.

Abbas has himself leveled such charges, which Netanyahu vehemently denies.

While Abbas hasn’t openly endorsed the attacks, he hasn’t condemned them either, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused him of inciting violence by calling for protests against Israel. At the UN last month, Abbas accused Israel of sending “extremists” into the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Last week, he alleged Israel was executing Palestinians in cold blood, and cited as an example a Palestinian teenager who had in fact perpetrated a terror attack, was alive, and was being treated in an Israeli hospital.

During a September speech in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Abbas hailed Palestinian rioters on the Temple Mount, saying any blood spilled in defense of the holy site was “pure.”

“The Al-Aqsa Mosque is ours. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is ours as well. They have no right to desecrate the mosque with their dirty feet; we won’t allow them to do that,” he added.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee resolution came a day after two top congressional appropriators, a Republican and a Democrat, warned Abbas in a letter that US funds were contingent on tamping down incitement during the current wave of violence.

“We implore you to refrain from highly inflammatory language and to redouble your efforts to uphold nonviolence,” wrote Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX), the chairwoman of the Foreign Operations subcommittee of the US House of Representatives Appropriations Committee, and Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), the committee and subcommittee’s top Democrat.

“As you are well aware, any US assistance generously provided by the American people to the Palestinian Authority is predicated on the PA’s adherence to the precepts of the Oslo Accords as well as countering terrorism and the incitement of violence.”

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is maintaining a list on its website of US lawmakers condemning Palestinian incitement.

One lawmaker speaking during the hearing, Rep. Brad Sherman, (D-CA), excoriated Palestinian incitement but also lamented Israeli incitement, particularly related to the Temple Mount, also known as the Noble Sanctuary.

“Back in the days of the Roman Empire, those zealots who claimed to be the most pro-Israel did enormous harm,” said Sherman, known for his closeness to the pro-Israel community, in remarks first noted by Americans for Peace Now in its weekly legislative roundup.

“So now we see a few fringe Israeli leaders who want to disturb the status quo on the Temple Mount,” he said. “They, too, are harmful. They provide a pretext for those who incite terrorism in Israel and those who seek delegitimization abroad.”

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