WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden’s administration is increasing aid to Palestinians after former President Donald Trump halted almost all aid. Since taking office with a pledge to overturn many of Trump’s Israeli-Palestinian decisions, the administration has allocated nearly $ 100 million to the Palestinians, of which only a small portion has been made public.
The Biden administration announced last Thursday that it was giving $ 15 million to vulnerable Palestinian communities in the West Bank and Gaza to help fight the coronavirus pandemic. A day later, without a public announcement, he informed Congress that he would give the Palestinians $ 75 million for economic support, to be used in part to regain their “confidence and goodwill” after the era’s cuts. Trump.
The State Department declined to comment on the notification, and it was not clear whether the $ 75 million included the $ 15 million in pandemic assistance. Nonetheless, the financing plan represents a major shift in the US approach to the Palestinians after the mutual recriminations of the Trump years.
In general, the administration supports a resumption of aid to the Palestinians, State Department spokesman Ned Price said.
“We continue to believe that US support for the Palestinian people, including financial support, is in line with our values. It is in line with our interests. Of course, it is in line with the interests of the Palestinian people. It is also in line with the interests of the Palestinian people. of our partner, Israel, and we will have more to say about it in the future, ”he told reporters.
The new aid appears to be aimed at encouraging the Palestinians to resume negotiations with Israel, although there is no indication that it will have that effect and Israel’s response has yet to be assessed.
A copy of the March 26 Congressional Notice from the Department of State and the United States Agency for International Development was obtained by the Associated Press, just hours after the non-partisan Government Accountability Office released a report according to which USAID had failed to properly monitor all of its Palestinian funding recipients for US Counter-Terrorism Criteria required by law.
Under US law, the United States cannot provide aid to the Palestinian Authority or fund projects that would benefit it as long as the authority provides allowances to perpetrators and families of those convicted of attacks. anti-Israeli or American. Such payments were one of the reasons the Trump administration cut aid. Although no help is provided to the PA, pro-Israel lawmakers, many of whom are Republicans, are likely to raise objections.
The Government Accountability Office based its findings on a review of aid provided to Palestinians between 2015 and 2019, when Trump cut off most of the aid. Although he said USAID followed the law with respect to the people and groups it directly funded, it did not do the same with the entities, known as sub-recipients, to which these groups then distributed taxpayer money.
“If funding resumes, we recommend measures to improve compliance,” said the Government Accountability Office report, which was released Monday evening.
According to USAID’s congressional notification, much of the $ 75 million is for urgent, short-term projects aimed at rapidly rebuilding US-Palestinian relations, which had fallen to their lowest point under the Trump administration. The notice said the money could start being spent on April 10.
Other areas identified for USAID funding include the health sector and the resumption of assistance to the East Jerusalem hospital system that Trump cut off, sanitation, water supply and infrastructure. transport, social services and vocational training for young Palestinians, micro-loans and grants for small businesses, and disaster preparedness.