Posted by on April 02, 2012 in Blog

Following the Palestinian Authority’s stalled bid for statehood at the United Nations, Congress froze all U.S. funds to Palestine as a means of punishing the Palestinian government for seeking a “unilateral solution” to the conflict. Last week, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, announced that she would authorize the release of $88.6 million of those funds, but would keep the remaining $58.6 million on hold.

The funds Ros-Lehtinen did release come with a host of restrictions and stipulations. None of the money can be used for the following:

  • Assistance and recovery in Hamas-controlled Gaza
  • Road constructions in the West Bank, except if directly related to security…
  • Trade facilitation, tourism promotion, cash for work, scholarships for Palestinian students…

In sum, Ros-Lethtinen has effectively prohibited the use of any aid money for actual aid; preventing the development of Palestinian infrastructure, education, or in the case of Gaza, reconstruction after devastating military attacks.

It’s clear by the narrow scope of remaining applications that Ros-Lehtinen intends to use the money instead to finance the PA’s burgeoning security apparatus.  Beyond the total disregard for much-needed Palestinian development, this is problematic for a number of other reasons as well.

The increasing militarization of the Palestinian territories is unlikely to contribute to long-term peace and stability; there’s quite enough militarization there already. In addition, the growing collaboration between PA security forces and the Israeli government has been a source of much controversy and contention. The deep concessions from Palestinian negotiators, revealed last year in the leaked “Palestine Papers,” led many Palestinians to feel that their government has already bent too much to Israel’s will, and received little in return.

The restriction of aid to such narrow limitations only reinforces the notion that Washington is only interested in the PA as a means of policing the Palestinians, and not as the embryo of a future Palestinian state.  If Rep. Ros-Lehtinen wants the Palestinians to eschew “unilateralism” and return to negotiations, she must demonstrate her commitment to the idea of a future Palestinian state, and not just its security apparatus.

U.S. aid does not only benefit the Palestinians. Palestine receives billions in aid, from dozens of other countries, many of whom are eager to assert themselves as new regional brokers. Our aid does more than just buttress the fledgling Palestinian state; it also affirms the U.S. commitment to the Palestinian people, and Washington’s desire to play a role in its future actions and development. To withhold that funding is to invite precisely the outcome that Ros-Lehtinen is ostensibly trying to avoid; the development of an independent Palestinian state where the United States has no leverage, influence, or respect.

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