Honestly, what is it about Fridays, the Trump administration, and the Palestinians? Each of the last three Fridays, “at the direction of the president,” State Department officials have unveiled new cuts to U.S. aid, all aimed at Palestinian civilians (after the U.S. had already made “drastic cuts to its contribution to the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees” back in January). Three Fridays ago, more than $200 million for humanitarian and development assistance in the West Bank and Gaza was slashed. Two Fridays ago, it was another $60 million, previously scheduled to go to the U.N. agency running schools and health clinics there. Last Friday, the administration went after six East Jerusalem hospitals, including “cutting money to cover cancer treatments and other critical care.” All told, it adds up to more than $300 million in aid cuts aimed at the most vulnerable of Palestinians.
This evidently passes for a negotiating tactic in the Trump era, as the president made all too clear in a recent new year’s call to American Jewish community leaders and rabbis. In a world in which Donald Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner have already given copiously to the Israelis — moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and backing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the hilt — this is apparently how the art of the deal applies to the Middle East. (“If we don’t make a deal, we’re not paying,” said the president in that phone call. “And that’s going to have a little impact.”)
No one should be surprised by any of this. As its grim policy of separating children and their parents on the U.S.-Mexico border demonstrated, Donald Trump’s administration has no hesitation about going after the weakest human link in any chain. And sadly, while his is a particularly extreme version of American policy in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it remains more culmination than break on this grim 25th anniversary of the Oslo Peace Accords, as TomDispatch regular Sandy Tolan, author of Children of the Stone: The Power of Music in a Hard Land, suggests today.