Republicans delay Biden administration’s funds to Palestinians

US Congressional Republicans have delayed $75 million in aid from being sent to Palestinians.

Last month, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) sent Congress a “programme narrative” of $75 million in Economic Support Funds (ESF) for programmes in the West Bank and Gaza that would begin 15 days after the notification was received.

The USAID programmes for the Palestinians include roads, pavements, bus lots, emergency preparedness, adapting to climate change, “community initiatives” and “safe spaces to engage in community initiatives.”

Senator James Elroy Risch and Representative Michael McCaul used their positions as high ranking members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and led Republican of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to stop USAID’s notification about the reinstated funding from reaching the committees.

Therefore, the aid will not start on 10 April as scheduled.

The Biden administration announced on Wednesday the resumption of financial assistance to the Palestinian people, amounting to $235 million, as former US President Donald Trump cut the assistance in 2018.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that the United States plans to restart US economic, development, and humanitarian assistance for the Palestinian people.

This includes $75 million in economic and development assistance in the West Bank and Gaza, $10 million for peace building programs through the US Agency for International Development (USAID), and $150 million in humanitarian assistance for UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees that caters to more than five million registered refugees.

“We are also resuming vital security assistance programs. All assistance will be provided consistent with U.S. law. Economic assistance includes support for small and medium enterprises’ recovery from the effects of COVID-19; support for needy households to access basic human needs, such as food and clean water; and assistance for Palestinian civil society,” said Blinken in the statement.

He added, “A portion of this funding will support the East Jerusalem Hospital Network, as it continues to provide necessary and life-saving treatments to Palestinians.”

“This funding is in addition to the $15 million in humanitarian assistance to address the COVID-19 pandemic and food insecurity the United States announced in March,” said Blinken.”

“The United States is resuming support for UNRWA’s services, including education for over 500,000 Palestinian boys and girls, thereby providing hope and stability in UNRWA’s five fields of operation in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”

“Funding to UNRWA also provides critical COVID-19 assistance, including healthcare, medicine, and medical supplies, as well as cash and food assistance to families severely impacted by COVID-19.”

Blinken stated that US foreign assistance for the Palestinian people serves important U.S. interests and values.

Following the announcement, Risch and McCaul said that “resuming assistance to the West Bank and Gaza without concessions from the Palestinian Authority (PA) undermines US interests.”

“The PA is spending millions annually to compensate terrorists while the international community pays for the well-being of the Palestinian people.”

“A recent Government Accountability Office report rightly calls for increased oversight of Palestinian assistance to ensure compliance with anti-terrorism policies. The Biden administration should use all available leverage to secure behaviour changes from the [Palestinian Authority] PA, including ending terror payments,” they added, in reference to stipends paid to the families of Palestinian detainees and martyrs.

Similarly, on Thursday, 18 Republican senators signed a letter, initiated by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, calling on the Biden administration to pause the new USAID programs.

It must clarify to Congress how the aid is compliant with the Taylor Force Act and how the Biden administration interprets that law, and ascertains that aid to the Palestinians “is tightly targeted to ensure that it benefits the Palestinian people and not the PA or Hamas.”

“Since 1993, the US government provided more than $6.3 billion to the Palestinians with the aims of, first, advancing the Palestinians’ capacity to build a state and, second, insulating and distancing Palestinian governance from terrorism,” the letter states.

“Measured by the degree to which they have achieved those aims, US programs have not just failed but have been counter-productive, with the money facilitating terrorist incitement and making its way to terrorists.”

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