The Trump administration has decided to significantly cut U.S. support for East Jerusalem hospitals which serve the Palestinian population from Gaza to the West Bank, according to Israeli media.
According to the PNN, a State Department official told Haaretz that this decision is part of the administration’s broader approach of cutting Palestinian aid.
These hospitals were supposed to receive more than $20 million according to the foreign aid budget approved by the U.S. Congress, for the current year, but the Trump administration decided to cut the funding in its entirety.
A State Department official reportedly said, on Thursday, that this decision is part of the administration’s broader approach of cutting Palestinian aid and investing it in other priorities.
The administration deliberated for a number of weeks whether or not to include the East Jerusalem hospitals in its budget cut, since some of these hospitals are supported by influential Christian groups in the United States.
The budget cut could cause harm to at least five hospitals in East Jerusalem, including Augusta Victoria hospital, near Mt. Scopus, and the St. John Eye Hospital, which is the main provider of eye treatments for Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
There was indication of the influence of Christian groups supporting these hospitals earlier this year, when congress approved the Taylor Force Act, which put severe restrictions on U.S. funding for Palestinians.
The law included a special and specific exclusion for these hospitals, which was initiated by congress after some of the powerful Christian organizations supporting these hospitals had lobbied. The lobbying effort, however, did not influence the Trump administration’s budget cuts.
Dave Harden, a former U.S. official who was in charge of USAID in the West Bank, warned on Friday that the decision could lead to the “collapse” of Augusta Victoria hospital.
The hospital, along with others in East Jerusalem serve not only the city’s Palestinians, but also Palestinians from Gaza and the West Bank, including cancer patients and children.
A Palestinian Authority official told NPR that “these acts will not change our position toward our cause one bit. On the contrary, it consolidates our positions toward every issue, including Jerusalem.”