We told you in our last Countdown about Trump’s threats to UNRWA, the UN agency providing assistance to Palestinian refugees. Well, these threats have now materialized, as the US holds back $65 million from the organization, which is more than half of the US contribution. Belgium responded to Trump’s cuts by stepping up and pledging $23 million to UNRWA. Good on Belgium, but it does not bring us any pride to see other nations having to step in with much-needed humanitarian assistance because U.S. policy is being so small-minded and short-sighted. Understandably, Palestinian frustration with Trump and Netanyahu has reached a new high, with Palestinian President Abbas delivering a 2+hour rambling speech reeking of despair, permanently rejecting unilateral US mediation of peace talks and announcing a call for the PLO to suspend Palestinian recognition of Israel until Israel reciprocates and recognizes Palestine. While the symbolism may be significant, this move won’t drastically change policy on the ground: Abbas affirmed that security cooperation and back channel talks between the Palestinian leadership and Israel are still in place; that a negotiated 2-state solution based on the 1967 borders remains the goal; and that the Palestinians are strictly committed to non-violent struggle.

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