Palestinian patients at the Augusta Victoria in Jerusalem, a hospital that is part of a group facing $25 million in funding cuts by the Trump administration. Pool photo by Menahem Kahana/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 8 (UPI) -- More than $20 million in foreign aid to East Jerusalem hospitals was cut from a previously approved U.S. budget, a decision the Trump administration announced Friday.
A State Department official said $25 million that was planned for the East Jerusalem Hospital Network, a group of hospitals providing care mostly to Palestinians, will be used for other priorities including programs in the Middle East, Africa, South and East Asia that counter the threat of the Islamic State.
The funding also will be redirected to counter threats by Syria, Iran and North Korea and help Columbia and other countries manage migrants from Venezuela.
The cut is part of President Donald Trump's plan to pressure Palestinians to make a peace deal with Israel.
Adnan Husseini, Palestinian Authority minister for Jerusalem affairs said the move is not surprising.
"Let America know that all these acts will not change our position toward our cause one bit. On the contrary, it consolidates our positions toward every issue, including Jerusalem," Husseini said.
Dave Harden, a former U.S. official overseeing aid to the Palestinians under the Obama administration, said the move was "particularly vindictive" and could cause the collapse of hospitals including Augusta Victoria Hospital, run by the Lutheran World Federation, and St. John Eye Hospital.
Hanan Ashrawia, executive committee member of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said the act is "political blackmail" that goes against the norms of human decency and morality.
Ashrawia said cutting vital funds to hospitals in East Jerusalem could cause serious instability and grave harm to thousands of Palestinian patients and their families from across the West Bank and Gaza Strip and hurt the livelihood of thousands of workers in the Palestinian healthcare sector.
The Trump administration has cut more than $200 million in aid to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. The aid that was part of the State Department's Economic Support and Development Fund, allocations planned for West Bank and Gaza programs totaling around $230 million.
Since January, the money had been frozen because Trump ordered a review to make sure it was being spent in the U.S. national interest.
"But with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?" Trump had tweeted about the funding.