Trump Administration Revokes Visas For Palestinian Envoy

Sep 16, 2018
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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Relations between the Trump administration and Palestinian officials continue to deteriorate. A Palestinian official says the U.S. has revoked the visas of a Palestinian envoy's family in Washington, D.C. This is just the latest point of friction after the Trump administration cut hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians. NPR's Daniel Estrin is with us now from Jerusalem with an update. Daniel, thanks so much for joining us.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: My pleasure.

MARTIN: First of all, would you just tell us about this latest dispute, if we can call it that? The revocation of visas, what's that all about?

ESTRIN: Yeah. Well, last week, the Trump administration ordered the Palestinians' diplomatic office in Washington to close, and that's supposed to happen by next month. And the State Department says that is because the Palestinians are not engaging with Trump's peace team that's trying to broker a peace deal between the Palestinians and the Israelis. And, indeed, the Palestinian Authority did cut ties with the administration. That happened when the Trump administration recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital. The Palestinians also wanted to establish their own capital in Jerusalem. And they say, the U.S. is undercutting one of our biggest demands and can't be a fair mediator in this conflict.

So the Palestinian envoy to Washington returned back to the Palestinian territories. And now, a Palestinian official says the U.S. is even revoking the envoy's wife and 5 and 7-year-old kids' visas. They had to leave their schools in Washington and leave the country, and the Palestinians are saying the U.S. is being spiteful.

MARTIN: What have you heard from the State Department about this?

ESTRIN: The State Department says it does not discuss individual visa cases.

MARTIN: And what about the U.S. funding cuts to the Palestinians? Can you tell us a bit more about that?

ESTRIN: Well, the latest on that is that, just a few days ago, the administration confirmed it will no longer give millions of dollars to peace-building activities that bring Palestinians and Israelis together. The U.S., for many years, has funded programs. There are programs like bringing together disabled youth from both sides, interfaith activities, many, many, others. And the administration says they're pulling money for those kinds of peace activities so long as the Palestinians don't cooperate with the U.S.

So that was last Friday. The Friday before that, NPR was the first to report that the Trump administration has decided to cut $25 million for cancer treatment and for other hospital care for Palestinians. The Friday before that, the administration said it was cutting about $300 million that's supposed to go to schools and clinics for Palestinian refugees. And then, the Friday before that, we learned that the administration is withdrawing $200 million in aid for the West Bank and Gaza, which is aid - including aid meant to address a humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

MARTIN: Now, many people might remember that there has been ongoing violence in the West Bank and Gaza. This has been going on for some months now. What's happening There?

ESTRIN: Right. So, most recently, today, a Palestinian teen stabbed and killed an American-Israeli dual national. That was near a West Bank settlement shopping center. And then, on Friday, Israeli troops killed two Palestinians, according to Gaza officials. And these were Palestinians protesting on the border fence separating Gaza and Israel. A 12-year-old Palestinian was also reported killed. But now, officials in Gaza say it appears that that kid may not have been killed from Israeli fire as originally reported, that it may have been from a Palestinian protester throwing a rock. I think all this is a reminder that the conflict here still claims lives.

MARTIN: That's NPR's Daniel Estrin in Jerusalem. Daniel, thank you so much.

ESTRIN: You're welcome, Michel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.