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September 18, 2018

Ending U.S. Aid to Palestinians: A Good Start


The U.S. is apparently on track to end the last remaining vestiges of taxpayer-provided financial support to civilian Palestinians. The only question is why it took so long? 

Last week, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) informed congressional aides that it would not release a budgeted $10 million to Palestinians, the New York Times reports

USAID was created in 1961 and is the primary vehicle for distributing some $39.3 billion (budgeted for 2019) in U.S. foreign aid and development assistance. The particular program facing the cut, USAID’s Conflict Management and Mitigation Program, was created in 2004 with the help of Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy. 

An aide to the senator is quoted by the Times as saying, “Senator Leahy regards the decision to cut off funding for the West Bank and Gaza as a sign that this White House has failed at diplomacy.” 

Speaking of “failed diplomacy,” it’s hard to imagine any bigger failure than our decades-long effort to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

When President Obama decided to take a different approach toward Cuba in 2014, he said, “We will end an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interests.” 

The Trump administration is apparently taking a similar look at both Palestinians, who essentially closed the door to negotiations with the U.S. over moving its embassy to Jerusalem, and other recipients of U.S. aid. 

The Congressional Research Service published last April its most recent assessment of U.S. financial aid. It estimates that total foreign assistance, broadly defined, was nearly $50 billion in 2016.  

  • 48 percent went to bilateral economic development;
  • 33 percent was for military aid and nonmilitary security assistance;
  • 14 percent was dedicated to humanitarian assistance; and
  • 5 percent went to support multilateral institutions. 

It’s not only appropriate but prudent to ask if U.S. taxpayers are getting their money’s worth. That doesn’t necessarily mean ending all foreign aid—especially the U.S.’s longstanding humanitarian efforts—just asking if the money is achieving its intended purposes. An honest answer to that question would be very disappointing. 

Much of the humanitarian aid provided to developing countries likely ends up in the bank accounts of political elites. 

And countries that are required to meet certain obligations should be dropped if they don’t. That’s why the Trump administration’s decided to cut $300 million in aid to Pakistan, which had failed to take action against terrorists. 

In this case, the president’s son-in-law understands better than Senator Leahy the real issue. Jared Kushner is quoted as saying, “Nobody is entitled to America’s foreign aid.” Palestinians and many countries have long thought they were.


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