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US cuts $80mn in aid to send message to Palestinians: Reports

The cuts are reportedly meant to put Palestinians on notice for 'incitement' of violence against Israelis
House Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Eliot Engel, D-NY in Washington, DC on 3 September 2013 (AFP)

The US has reportedly cut its financial aid to the Palestinian Authority by $80 million. 

The cuts are an alleged message to Palestinians to end the 'incitement' of violence that has spread across Israel and the occupied territories, reported al-Monitor

News of the cuts comes as US Secretary of State John Kerry and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas were meeting on Saturday to discuss the more than three weeks of deadly Israeli-Palestinian violence. 

Amid mounting criticism from Congress about Palestinian "incitement," the State Department told lawmakers at the end of September it intended to reduce economic aid to the West Bank and Gaza Strip by 22 percent of its initial request, from $370 million to $290mn, according to al-Monitor's report. 

"We need to dial up pressure on Palestinian officials to repudiate this violence," Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was quoted as saying.

“This wave of violence isn’t some random flare-up,” Engel added at a committee hearing to issue a symbolic resolution against Palestinian incitement of violence.

“It’s the product of years and years of anti-Israel propaganda and indoctrination, some of which has been actively promoted by Palestinian Authority officials and institutions.”

The committee voted unanimously on Thursday on a non-binding resolution condemning  Abbas and other Palestinian leaders for "incitement" of violence against Israelis. 

Recent statements by the Palestinian leaders criticising Israel for wanting to change the status quo on the Temple Mount in Jersualem were quoted in the resolution.

The statement's signatories urged “President Abbas and Palestinian Authority officials to discontinue all official incitement and exert influence to discourage anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement in Palestinian civil society".

House foreign aid panel chairwoman Rep. Kay Granger (R-NY) told al-Monitor that the cuts were a "good first step," after she wrote a letter to Abbas on Tuesday warning him that US aid would be "severely jeopardised" if he refuses direct negotiations.

Meanwhile, commenting on the plan, chairman of the committee Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) was quoted as saying: "Given that about one-third of the Palestinian Authority’s budget is financed through foreign aid, international donors have leverage.

"They could follow the lead of the US Congress and make direct funding of the PA off limits until the incitement stops."