Daniel Estrin

The White House has blocked an emergency effort to finish major U.S.-funded school, water and sewage projects in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, according to documents reviewed by NPR.

It is the latest of a series of moves by the Trump administration to shut down U.S. aid to Palestinians, which is scheduled to end Feb 1.

In the little town of Bethlehem, Santa hops out of a red minivan, adjusts his round, gold-rimmed glasses and is briefed by his chauffeur, Mohammed Battah.

"Martin and Christina," the driver says, handing him two wrapped boxes.

"Martin!" Santa calls out, rapping his cane and ringing a golden bell as he ascends a stone staircase.

Four-year-old Martin cries at first, scared of the stranger with the white beard. Then, when he understands the man is Santa bringing his Christmas gift, he runs into his arms.

The Trump administration has slashed more than half a billion dollars in aid to the Palestinians this year. Now, the United States says it may cut more money for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

In recent years, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has cultivated friendships with rising nationalist and far-right leaders in Europe. His supporters say it's a smart diplomatic move to chip away at the European Union's longtime critique of Israeli policies — the nationalist leaders tend to be pro-Israel. But some Israelis argue Netanyahu is too accommodating of these leaders' controversial views on Holocaust history.

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