The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced this week that they will be firing half of their employees in Judea and Samaria in the near future and plan to shut down operations entirely in early 2019.

USAID is an independent agency of the U.S. federal government that is primarily responsible for administering civilian foreign aid and development assistance. USAID is one of the largest official aid agencies in the world, operating in more than 100 countries, and accounts for more than half of all U.S. foreign assistance. USAID has been operating in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza since 1994, investing approximately $5.5 billion in infrastructure, medical services, and education.

The decision to end funding came from the State Department which directed USAID last week to present a list of 60 percent of its employees that can be fired immediately.  USAID was also directed to shut down its operations in 2019. USAID was slated to have invested $250 million in helping the Palestinians over the next year. $35 million of that would have gone to the Palestinian Authority security services.

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This is the final stage of a series of cutbacks in U.S aid benefiting the Palestinians since President Trump took office. In January, Trump announced that the US would withhold $65 million in aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). In July and August, President Trump ordered a $200 million in cuts to Palestinian aid initiatives while ending the U.S. contribution to UNRWA entirely. In September, the U.S. government removed $10 million in funding for USAID programs promoting coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians. The cutback was in response to the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to engage the Trump Administration to initiate direct negotiations with the Israeli government.

USAID officials told Haaretz news that the cutbacks are meant to put pressure on PA President Mahmoud Abbas to renew talks with the and Israel ahead of the peace plan the U.S. government is expected to present soon.

This is consistent with what President Trump has said. In a dialogue with Jewish leaders in September, President Trump said, “I stopped massive amounts of money that we were paying to the Palestinians and the Palestinian leaders. We were – the United States was paying them tremendous amounts of money,” he said. “And I’d say, you’ll get money, but we’re not paying you until we make a deal. If we don’t make a deal, we’re not paying.”

Source: Israel in the News