Palestinians in the West Bank Respond to Trump’s Pressure With Defiance

Palestinians in the West Bank Respond to Trump’s Pressure With Defiance
A Palestinian girl peeks out of a car window after receiving UNRWA food aid in a refugee camp north of Jabalia, Gaza Strip, Sept. 4, 2018 (Photo by Wissam Nassar for DPA via AP Images).

RAMALLAH—“We lose Trump’s money, but we preserve our dignity,” Ahmed, 19, told me at Qalandia refugee camp near Ramallah when I asked him how he felt about President Donald Trump’s recent decision to halt all U.S. funding to UNRWA, the United Nations agency that provides food, education and health care to the more than 5 million Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Created in 1949, UNRWA has been a lifeline for Palestinians who fled or were expelled from their homes during the 1948 and 1967 wars with Israel. Last year, the United States provided about a third of its $1.1 billion budget.

While some Palestinian officials have been raising the alarm about what they call Trump’s “war against the Palestinians,” Ahmed and others in the West Bank say the unprecedented cut of American funding—both to UNRWA and to the Palestinian Authority—could be a kind of blessing in disguise, if it forces a change in the status quo governing how the Palestinian Authority works with Israel. Many Palestinians in the West Bank, as I found on a trip there earlier this month, are responding to Trump’s decisions with defiance rather than surrender.

No previous American administration, at least since the 1993 Oslo Accords, has taken measures against the Palestinians as radical as the Trump administration’s over the past year. It moved the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, cut approximately $396 million in aid to UNRWA and, most recently, cut a further $25 million in assistance to Palestinian hospitals in East Jerusalem. Then, on the 25th anniversary of the Oslo Accords last week, it decided to shut down the Washington office of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Israel’s counterpart in the signing of Oslo.

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