"Secretary of State Rex Tillerson faced harsh bipartisan criticism on Tuesday as he tried to defend the Trump administration's proposed slashing of America's diplomatic and foreign aid budget". The official went on to emphasize that "the Palestinian Authority continues to praise, incite and encourage terrorism with these payments".
The Senate has overwhelmingly passed a bill to impose new sanctions on Russian Federation and to make sure the Trump administration doesn't change course without congressional buy-in.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson achieved a momentary consensus among Israeli and Palestinian officials - but not in the way he may have hoped. This includes a massive funding cut to overseas security for US facilities, a move that has prompted security concerns.
But at another point, Tillerson suggested that it was not quite a done deal, saying the USA was still in "active discussion" with the Palestinian Authority about the matter.
Yet, a short while later in the session, Tillerson appeared to revert to his position of the previous day, telling the congressional panel that assurances from the Palestinian leadership on this issue "were given to me during the President's visit to Bethlehem". Israel's defense minister says he sees no sign the Palestinians stopped the payments or intend to. He says the Palestinians indicated they were changing the policy. All of them, including around 300 children and 50 women, receive monthly support from the Palestinian Authority. I said, 'Widows and orphans is one thing. "We must develop proactive responses to protect and advance the interest of the American people".
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For Abbas, ending such payments would be politically fraught.
But within hours of Mr Tillerson's statement, both Israeli and Palestinian officials said he was wrong.
On Tuesday, Tillerson said that the PNA agreed to stop the payments for families of assailants, including suicide bombers who carried out attacks on Israelis. "I would advise everybody to be very suspicious of any such promise coming from thee Palestinians". "In part, that was an acknowledgment that the money Congress ultimately allocates to the State Department is going to be higher than the administration requested..."
Israel has long called for the Palestinians to halt the "martyrs' fund" payments to about 35,000 relatives of Palestinians killed and wounded in attacks on Israeli troops and civilians. Mr. Tillerson assured the lawmakers that they were. "We did question that vigorously and are in discussions with [the IAEA] to ensure that they [Iran] are meeting all those obligations to certify compliance to us".
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