ExxonMobil Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, May 12, 2011, before the Senate Finance Committee hearing looking into high gasoline prices and high profits. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Rex Tillerson Justifies Increased Aid to Palestinians by Promoting a Falsehood

Whose side are they on, anyway?

It is becoming increasingly difficult to say the Trump administration is a true friend to Israel, one of the selling points to Evangelical voters during the run up to the election.

At best, the Trump administration is just as duplicitous in their dealing with our only true allies in the Middle East as every other administration has been. The apparent misconception is in that Trump’s administration is somehow more of a friend because where the Obama administration was openly hostile to Israel, Trump smiles in their faces before an act of betrayal.

On Tuesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sought to justify a Trump budget proposal that would increase payments to the Palestinian government, in spite of the fact that the Palestinian government uses a portion of those funds to pay terrorists and their families – a reward for attacks against Israel.

Tillerson made the false claim that the Palestinian government had assured him that their practice of paying off terrorists was over. Almost immediately, not only did Israel dispute the claim, but the Palestinian government, themselves, scoffed at the notion.

In other words, the ones who would know best are saying Tillerson is full of it. The Palestinians are dedicated to the continued death of Israeli school children, and they will use U.S. tax dollars to fund it.

Tillerson, testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was asked to explain his remarks earlier this week claiming that the Palestinian government had stopped its longstanding policy of paying terrorists salaries using aid granted by the U.S. government, a claim that was almost immediately rebutted by Palestinian and Israeli officials.

To be specific, the Trump budget proposal increases aid to the Palestinians by almost 5 percent, bringing payments up to $215 million.

The increase in aid to the Palestinians, who continue to sponsor and incite terror attacks on Israel, drew opposition from Democrats and Republicans who criticized Tillerson for seeking to increase this aid while cutting the overall State Department budget by more than 30 percent. This includes a massive funding cut to overseas security for U.S. facilities, a move that has prompted security concerns.

The Palestinian Authority has “not complied with their commitments under U.S. law, yet all potential sanctions were waived,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R., Fla.) said during the hearing. “How can you justify and increase [the aid], when so many things in the budget were cut, but the PA has an increase in your budget request.”

Tillerson, to date, has not offered a coherent explanation. He chose not to directly address the question as it was presented to him.

“We’re in active discussion with the Palestinian Authority,” Tillerson said. “These discussions are around issues of how they manage terrorism and how they manage violence in the West Bank and Gaza but it’s also hopefully setting the stage for a reengagement in the peace process with the Israelis.”

Giving them more resources for terror is probably not the way to go about achieving peace.

In fact, there has been nothing but concessions put on Israel. Trump blindsided Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this year, when he turned to him during a joint press conference and asked him to stop further construction on the West Bank.

Netanyahu seemed caught off guard.

Later, Trump’s administration pulled plans to move the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move that would show the U.S. recognized Jerusalem as the eternal capital of Israel.

This was another broken promise, compounded by Trump’s later comments that moving the capital would depend on that elusive “peace process.” You can take that to mean, specifically, how much more is Israel willing to give up?

When Trump made those promises on the campaign trail, they didn’t come with qualifiers.

Yet, here we are. Israel is, once again, left with a lap full of empty promises, and the Trump administration is adding insult to injury by attempting to increase aid to the very ones who are trying to kill them.

“There have been talks about making the payments in a different way, but not ending them,” one Palestinian official was quoted as telling Reuters. “They could perhaps be labeled differently,” but they “are not going to be stopped.”

Remember that.

Nobody is trying to pass off the long boiling conflict between Israel and Palestine as an easy fix. Many have come before Trump and his equally inexperienced secretary of state, attempting to find common ground that cannot be held.

What we shouldn’t do is allow for our lawmakers to mislead us, as well as our allies about where our taxes are being allocated, especially if those funds are going to terrorists.

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Susan Wright

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