US preparing more than $100 million in aid for Palestinians

President Biden gives his first formal press conference
UPI Photo

The Biden administration is ramping up its support for Palestinians as part of efforts to restore ties severed during former President Trump’s tenure, which saw U.S. policy tilt heavily in favor of Israel.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the State Department have sent notification to Congress of their intent to deliver approximately $125 million in assistance to the Palestinians, according to a congressional source.

The funds were largely appropriated in the 2020 budget, but the Trump administration blocked nearly all aid since it severed ties with the Palestinian Authority in 2018.

The financial assistance being readied by the State Department and USAID includes $75 million to support economic growth, increase access to basic needs and programs that engage with Palestinian society in the West Bank and Gaza.

Congress was further notified that USAID will provide $10 million for cross-border, people-to-people reconciliation activities.

The State Department will also deliver $40 million from the 2016 and 2017 budget that is meant for security cooperation programs, in particular International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement funds for activities in the West Bank.

The State Department declined to comment on the total U.S. assistance being readied for the Palestinians but spokesperson Ned Price said on Wednesday that American support and financial assistance for the Palestinians “is consistent with our values. It is consistent with our interests.”

He added, “Of course, it is consistent with the interests of the Palestinian people. It’s also consistent with the interests of our partner Israel, and we’ll have more to say on that going forward.”

The notifications to Congress follow an announcement last week by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield that the Biden administration will provide $15 million to the Palestinians to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic assistance funds were the first delivery of humanitarian aid to the Palestinians since President Biden took office in January.

The Trump administration had offered about $5 million in assistance at the outset of the pandemic, but it’s unclear if the funds were accepted by the Palestinian Authority — which rejected assistance from the U.S. in response to the former administration’s actions while also seeking to avoid opening itself up to litigation under anti-terrorism laws in the U.S.

Trump was a staunch advocate for Israel whose support drew outcry from Palestinians. Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the U.S. Embassy there, offered U.S. recognition to Israeli communities in the contested West Bank, ended support for the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees and largely eliminated all assistance to the Palestinians over criticisms that the Palestinian Authority supported terrorism.

But the new tranche of funds is expected to be a gesture of kindness from the Biden administration. The Associated Press reported that this assistance will be used in part to regain the “trust and goodwill” of the Palestinians following icier relations during the former Trump administration. 

Biden had earlier stated his intention to restore relations with the Palestinians, reopen a diplomatic mission to the Palestinian Authority and support efforts for negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians to achieve a two-state solution — goals that were reiterated in remarks by the acting U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Richard Mills shortly after Biden took office.

“President Biden has been clear in his intent to restore U.S. assistance programs that support economic development and humanitarian aid for the Palestinian people and to take steps to reopen diplomatic missions that were closed by the last U.S. administration,” Mills said in remarks to the U.N. Security Council on Jan. 26.

Tags Biden foreign policy Donald Trump Israel Israeli-Palestinian conflict Joe Biden Linda Thomas-Greenfield
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