US transferred frozen PA funds to humanitarian organizations


BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — The United States government has transferred frozen funds initially intended for the Palestinian Authority (PA) to humanitarian organizations operating in the occupied Palestinian territory instead, a US official told Ma’an on Thursday.

According to reports in Hebrew media, Deputy Spokesperson of US Department of State Mark Toner said the decision was made after $221 million worth of funds, which were initially released by former President Barack Obama in the final hours of his president in January, were frozen by US President Donald Trump.
Toner reportedly said that the money was set to be transferred to organizations supporting the education, infrastructure sectors in the occupied territory, and to reconstruction efforts in the besieged Gaza Strip following Israel’s devastating 2014 offensive.
None of the money would be transferred to the PA, Toner reportedly said.
According to Israeli daily Haaretz, the money originated from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and was meant to be spent on humanitarian aid in the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip and to support the development of good governance strategies in preparation for an independent Palestinian state.
Meanwhile, US Consulate General spokesman Clayton Alderman told Ma’an that, contrary to initial reports, the funds had already been released to USAID and been earmarked for a number of “implementing partners,” which include non-governmental organizations operating in the occupied Palestinian territory and creditors to which the PA owed money for electricity and other infrastructural needs.
“None of the funds have gone directly to the PA,” Alderman said.
The funds were originally put on hold by at least two Republican lawmakers, Ed Royce of California, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Kay Granger of Texas, who sits on the House Appropriations Committee, according to the Times of Israel.
Following the news of Obama’s release of the funds, Granger released a statement on Tuesday saying that she was “deeply disappointed” by the decision, and that she had “worked to make sure that no American taxpayer dollars would fund the Palestinian Authority unless very strict conditions were met.”
Trump has been vocal in his support for moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and also abandoned the internationally supported two-state solution during a press conference last month, saying that he could “live with either” a two-state or one-state solution to the conflict.
Following Trump’s election, Israel’s ultra-right Education Minister Naftali Bennett said that a Trump presidency would mark the end of a push for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
“This is the position of the president-elect, as written in his platform, and it should be our policy, plain and simple. The era of a Palestinian state is over,” he said.
While Obama had publicly condemned Israel’s settlement building in the past, the former president still signed a $38 billion military aid package back in September, promising Israel the hefty sum in the form of financial assistance and missile defense systems over the course of 10 years. The deal represents the largest foreign aid package given to a country in US history.
(Source / 09.03.2017)

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