Sep 2, 2018

Scoop: Netanyahu asked U.S. to cut aid for Palestinian refugees

Photo: Amir Cohen/AFP/Getty Images

Around two weeks ago, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu privately conveyed a message to the White House stressing that Israel's position regarding the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has changed — and that it now supports a complete cut of all U.S. funding to the agency, which gives aid to Palestinian refugees, Israeli officials told me. The officials added Netanyahu communicated with the Trump administration without consulting Israel's security chiefs.

Why it matters: As with almost every past U.S. administration, Israel's position plays important part in White House's decision making on Israeli-Palestinian issues. Until several weeks ago, the Israeli policy was that any cut in American funding of UNRWA should be gradual and without any aid cuts to Gaza, thanks to the fear of a humanitarian collapse and an escalation on the ground. This position was supported by the IDF, the Shin Bet intelligence service and by the Israeli Ministry of Defense. For a long time, this was also the position conveyed to the White House and Congress by Israeli officials.

  • Israeli officials told me that Netanyahu decided to change the Israeli government's position several weeks ago, supporting a complete and immediate cut of all U.S. funding to UNRWA. The officials said Netanyahu conveyed this message privately to the White House and to members of the Senate Appropriations Committee via his close confidant, Ron Dermer, Israel's ambassador to the U.S.
  • The Israeli officials also told me Netanyahu decided on the policy shift without any discussion in the Israeli security cabinet and without any substantial consultation with the heads of the IDF and Israel's security and intelligence services. The officials said many senior defense and intelligence officials in Israel were caught by surprise by the policy shift and did not see it coming.
  • Netanyahu's office declined to comment but didn't deny the details in this story.  

Go deeper

Updates: George Floyd protests continue past curfews

Protesters on Tuesday evening by the metal fence recently erected outside the White House. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Protests over the death of George Floyd and other police-related killings of black people continued Tuesday night across the U.S. for the eighth consecutive day — prompting a federal response from the National Guard, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection.

The latest: Protesters were still out en masse for mostly after curfews were in force in cities including Washington, D.C., New York City, Los Angeles and Portland — where police used pepper spray and flash bangs on a group throwing projectiles at them during an "unlawful assembly," per KATU. Portland police said this group was separate to the thousands of demonstrators who protested peacefully elsewhere in the city.

Primary elections test impact of protests, coronavirus on voting

Election official at a polling place at McKinley Technology High School in Washington, D.C. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

In the midst of a global pandemic and national protests over the death of George Floyd, eight states and the District of Columbia held primary elections on Tuesday.

Why it matters: Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, needs to win 425 of the 479 delegates up for grabs in order to officially clinch the nomination. There are a number of key down-ballot races throughout the country as well, including a primary in Iowa that could determine the fate of Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa).

Iowa Rep. Steve King defeated in GOP primary

Rep. Steve King. Photo: Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images

State Sen. Randy Feenstra defeated incumbent Rep. Steve King in Tuesday's Republican primary for Iowa's 4th congressional district, according to the Cook Political Report.

Why it matters: King's history of racist remarks has made him one of the most controversial politicians in the country and a pariah within the Republican Party.