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Former USAID Official: Agency to End All Palestinian Projects

Palestinian protesters clash with Israeli security forces in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on July 19

The U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, is ending all projects in the West Bank and Gaza Strip on Jan. 31 following the decision to cut funding to the Palestinians, according to a former USAID official.

Dave Harden, who recently served as a USAID minister counselor and as an assistant administrator during the Obama administration, expressed his concerns over the move saying it "demonstrates again a lack of nuance, sophistication, and appreciation for the complexity of the situation, according to the Jerusalem Post.

"Who suffers when USAID leaves schools and water systems unfinished? Palestinians, of course, but also Israelis and Americans. The administration just gave Hamas more running room," he added.

Harden founded and became the managing director of the Georgetown Strategy Group following his time at USAID. He also tweeted Thursday about the halting of the USAID projects in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, saying it was "another example of the end of the two-state solution."

Dan Shapiro, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel, responded to the news on Twitter and questioned whether the Palestinian Authority will continue to accept assistance from the United States for its security forces "if it is the only stream of US funding."

"If accurate, an unbelievably short-sighted move. It cuts off programs that have improved econ &security conditions for Pals & Israelis. It breaks up a highly experienced professional team. And we'll just have to rebuild the mission all over again in the next Admin, at great cost," Shapiro tweeted.

The USAID did not respond to a request for comment from the Post, but Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said if the news is accurate, then he would have a difficult time understanding the logic behind it.

"None of this ‘pressures’ [PA President Mahmoud] Abbas since he is indifferent and not in control of the funding," Satloff said in response to Harden’s statement. "It only raises further hardship on ordinary Palestinians for no appreciable gain (and further loss of US goodwill). [This is a] brilliant preparation for a US peace plan."

The Trump administration took significant steps last year to cut aid to the Palestinian Authority, and there are further indications USAID projects may have been cut, according to the Post.

The Post has learned that several foreign nationals who were assigned to various USAID projects in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have left the country in recent weeks and months together with their families after being informed of the decision to end the projects they were working on at the end of this month.

In August 2018, US President Donald Trump’s administration notified Congress of its decision to cut more than $200 million in bilateral aid to the Palestinians, following a review of the funding for projects in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

"At the direction of President Trump, we have undertaken a review of US assistance to the Palestinian Authority and in the West Bank and Gaza to ensure these funds are spent in accordance with US national interests and provide value to the U.S. taxpayer," the State Department said. "As a result of that review, at the direction of the president, we will redirect more than $200 million … originally planned for programs in the West Bank and Gaza.