A Palestinian man pushes a cart with bags of flour at an aid distribution center run by United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip September 1, 2018.. (photo credit: REUTERS/IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA)

Expressing deep concern over the move, Dave Harden told ‘The Jerusalem Post’ that the U.S. administration “demonstrates again a lack of nuance.”

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) will end all its projects in the West Bank and Gaza Strip on January 31 following the US administration’s decision to cut funding to the Palestinians, Dave Harden, former USAID Mission Director and Managing Director of the Georgetown Strategy Group, said on Thursday.

Expressing deep concern over the move, Harden told The Jerusalem Post that the US administration “demonstrates again a lack of nuance, sophistication, and appreciation for the complexity of the situation.”

He added: “Who suffers when USAID leaves schools and water systems unfinished? Palestinians, of course, but also Israelis and Americans. The administration just gave Hamas more running room.”

The cut off of January 31st matches the implementation of the Anti Terrorism Clarification Act, a bill signed into law in October by the Trump Administration. This act creates liability for the PA should it accept any foreign assistance from the US Government – effectively closing down all USAID programming. It has been reported that the Administration has sent the United States Security Coordinator to Congress to advocate for a change to the law to enable security coordination to continue.

Harden later said on Twitter that halting the USAID projects in the West Bank and Gaza Strip was “another example of the end of the two-state solution.”

Former US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro responded on Twitter by raising the question whether the Palestinian Authority will continue to accept US assistance for their security forces “if it is the only stream of US funding.” That, he said, “would layer another security risk on top of the ones associated with economic instability.”

Robert Satloff, Executive Director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said that if news about ending of the USAID projects in the West Bank and Gaza Strip were accurate, it would be difficult to understand the logic behind it.

“None of this ‘pressures’ [PA President Mahmoud] Abbas since he is indifferent and not in control of the funding,” Satloff said in response to Harden’s statement. “It only raises further hardship on ordinary Palestinians for no appreciable gain (and further loss of US goodwill). [This is a] brilliant preparation for a US peace plan.”

USAID did not immediately respond to a Post request for a comment.

The Post has learned that several foreign nationals who were assigned to various USAID projects in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have left the country in recent weeks and months together with their families after being informed of the decision to end the projects they were working on at the end of this month.

In August 2018, US President Donald Trump’s administration notified Congress of its decision to cut more than $200 million in bilateral aid to the Palestinians, following a review of the funding for projects in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

“At the direction of President Trump, we have undertaken a review of US assistance to the Palestinian Authority and in the West Bank and Gaza to ensure these funds are spent in accordance with US national interests and provide value to the U.S. taxpayer,” the State Department said. “As a result of that review, at the direction of the president, we will redirect more than $200 million … originally planned for programs in the West Bank and Gaza.”