Posted by on October 05, 2011 in Blog

Congress officially announced on Monday that security aid to the Palestinian Authority as well as much needed humanitarian aid has been blocked in response to the Palestinian leadership’s attempt to gain UN recognition. “These are mainly humanitarian and development projects – it is another kind of collective punishment which is going to harm the needs of the public without any positive contribution,” PA spokesman Ghassan Khatib said. The cut in funding threatens many existing projects such as the purchase of supplies by the UN’s World Food Program for impoverished families, health service reform and training and equipment to hospitals, as well as new projects scheduled to begin such as teacher-training and large scale road and water infrastructure developments.  

Holds are being placed on the $192 million for USAID funding for the Palestinians and also on the $150 million for security assistance to the Palestinian Authority. Fears have arisen that this may only be the first step in a wider series of sanctions that will be imposed by Congress. The Congressional block of aid to Palestine comes in the wake of the Obama Administration and U.S. government officials opposing the action. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said on Monday the Administration was in “intensive discussions with key Congressional members who placed the hold on the money. “We still have some money in the pipeline but the concern is that if we don’t get this going with the Congress in short order, there could be an effect on the ground,” Nuland said. U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta warned earlier this week that Israel is becoming increasingly isolated in the Middle East and criticized the Congressional move during a Tel Aviv press conference with Israeli counterpart Ehud Barak. “The Administration opposes holding these funds from the Palestinians, Panetta said.” “This is a critical time and it is not a time to withhold those funds,” he said. Furthermore, former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter warned legislators to leave the issue of aid to the Administration: “Everybody knows the U.S. Congress is the most pro-Israel parliamentary body in the world. They don’t have to demonstrate that,” said Clinton.

The Arab League appealed to its 22 member states to bolster financial help after the U.S. Congress blocked the transfer of aid in reaction to the Palestinian statehood bid at the UN. “The Arabs will assist the Palestinian Authority. This will be the strongest answer [to U.S. threat],” said Secretary-General of the Arab League, Nabil al Arabi. Saudia Arabia has already transferred 200 million to the PA to ease a financial crisis faced by the authority.  

Israel depends on the PA security forces in the West Bank, so it is also in Israel’s interest to maintain a strong PA which will control growing discontent among Palestinians and stop efforts for widespread civil disobedience. The withheld money “goes to establishing and strengthening the institutions of a future Palestinian state, building a more democratic and stable and secure region,” said Nuland. The PA has in fact made huge strides on security and economic infrastructure that were highlighted during the series of House Foreign Affairs hearings on reassessing U.S. aid to the PA. U.S. government officials have tried to explain the dangers of withholding funds form the PA and the consequences expected in the West Bank if law enforcement officials do not receive their salaries, a move that could give Hamas the opening it needs to take control of the West Bank.  

House Foreign Affairs Chair, Ros-Lehtinen, author of the UN Transparency bill (H.R. 2829), released a statement yesterday in response to the possible decision of UNESCO to grant full membership to the Palestinian mission to the UN, urging the Administration to oppose possible UNESCO move to grant full membership to Palestine, “The U.S. must strongly oppose this move and make clear that any decision to upgrade the Palestinian mission’s status by UNESCO or any other UN entity will lead to a cutoff of U.S. funds to that entity.”

Despite the devastating steps taken by Congress, the European Union has reassured Abbas that funding from the EU will not be terminated and EU projects currently carried out in the Palestinian territories will not be in jeopardy of getting defunded.

 

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