State Department: Why should US fund PA hospitals?

State Department spokeswoman: PA, instead of paying its debts, pays terrorists and their families.

Elad Benari ,

State Department building
State Department building

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert on Thursday said that the US had no reason to fund Palestinian Authority (PA) hospitals, as this funding allows the PA to free up funds for payments of terrorists.

Earlier this month, US President Donald Trump announced he would cut $25 million in aid to six PA-run hospitals in Jerusalem, noting the funds would be directed to "high-priority projects elsewhere."

Previously, the US covered the costs of medical treatment for Palestinian Arabs who received care at these hospitals.

At her daily press briefing on Thursday, Nauert was asked whether she anticipated any sort of blowback from the decision to cut the aid to PA hospitals.

“The United States Government does not believe that it is responsible for paying for the hospital bills,” she replied. “Now, that may shock some people to hear that. The Palestinian Authority is the one that actually incurs these bills on behalf of Palestinian citizens and others who seek treatment at that hospital. The Palestinian Authority is solely responsible for paying for the treatment of Palestinians in those hospitals.”

“Historically,” noted Nauert, “they have neglected to pay the bills at their hospital of those individuals and other bills related to the hospital. Our funding in the past has generously shored them up. The PA, though – we have seen the Palestinian Authority is prioritizing paying its debts – has failed to prioritize paying its debts and has instead put money into funding things like payment to families of terrorists.”

“We think that that is a wrong decision, that the Palestinians should be funding the care of their own people in the hospitals and that it should not be the responsibility of the United States Government to pay those bills when the Palestinians have that money that they could choose to use on their own people, as opposed to funding the families of terrorists and those who are serving in prison,” she continued.

Nauert was pressed on the issue and asked whether she was saying that the PA takes money that it would otherwise be using to pay for medical treatment for Palestinian Arabs and gives that money to the relatives of prisoners and people who have committed terrorist attacks.

“Three words to answer that question: Money is fungible, and that is the money that we provide to different entities and groups throughout the Palestinian Authority can be used for other things,” replied the State Department spokeswoman. “So we see that. We hope that the Palestinians will choose – the Palestinian Authority will choose to spend money on its own people at the hospital, and the United States should no longer be forced to shoulder that bill.”

Pressed again on the matter, Nauert stated that “the Palestinian Authority could pay these bills on their own…but you know what, they’re choosing to spend money that goes to the families of terrorists. Under the Taylor Force Act, that is something that is now established into law.”

She also noted that “I’m not sure it’s our responsibility to crunch the numbers to figure out whether or not they have enough money to pay for those hospital bills. The United States has shored them up in the past. The United States Government has made the decision at this point to no longer do that.”

Trump’s decision to cut the funds to the PA hospitals came days after he announced that the US would no longer fund UNRWA, the United Nations agency which helps “Palestinian refugees”.

In August, the US administration announced a $200 million cut in the funding given to humanitarian needs and the development of infrastructure in Gaza and PA-controlled areas of Judea and Samaria.

PA officials have expressed anger at the punitive measures taken by the US. Last week, Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner told The New York Times that the Trump administration’s recent funding cuts to the PA do not impede the prospects of peace.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas, condemned Kushner’s remarks and said they are indicative of the fact that “[he] is unaware of the reality of the conflict, and is an attempt to mislead and falsify the history of Jerusalem and its Islamic and Christian sanctities.”