Monday, October 22, 2018

House Democrats ask for transparency for Palestinian Aid Funds


By Marc Henry - July 17, 2018
TAGS:
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [aid] [US foreign policy]

In a letter, nine Democrats in the US House of Representatives have requested an update from the President of the United States, Donald Trump, on the current status of U.S. funding towards Palestinian Authority (PA).

Despite being the largest single donor to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the US in January 2018 withheld $65 million as they were examining the agencies use of the money.
This was in response to the refusal of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ meeting with US officials after the controversy regarding Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
 
In a Twitter post on January 2, Trump stated the United States gives the Palestinians “HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect,” and added that “with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?”
 
In March 2018, the withhold of funds was followed by the passing of the “Taylor Force Act” cutting off funds of for the PA unless the Authority ended paying stipends for the families of Palestinian prisoners, and revoked laws authorising this compensation.
 
The two actions have resulted in The USAID office in the West Bank, and Gaza not receiving a budget for the following year and thus had to put a halt to its projects, according to the PNN.
 
According to the letter, written by the entire Democratic membership of the House Foreign Affairs Middle East Subcommittee and addressed directly to President Donald Trump the impact of the funding freeze could lead to catastrophic consequences.
 
“140,000 people will cease to receive emergency food and non-food assistance, 42,000 patients will not receive essential health services, 50,000 youths will lack access to life skills development, and 12,250 people will lose paid entrepreneurship opportunities,” the letter stated.
 
“We believe these crucial humanitarian funds must be restored in order to save innocent lives.”
 
Furthermore, the House Democrats believe many of the NGO implementing partners in the West Bank would be forced to shut down operations in a matter of weeks if funding is not released.
 
The request for transparency comes after the State Department could not prove detailed information about benchmarks or timeline during a Subcommittee hearing at the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on June 13.
 
According to the letter, the nine house democrats support the need for oversight of U.S. assistance programs and wants to ensure that no U.S. assistance is inadvertently benefitting Hamas which by the United States is considered a terrorist organisation.
 
However, according to the letter, “it is unnecessary to withhold funding while conducting this review.”
 
Furthermore, the letter states that “the humanitarian crisis inside Gaza is getting worse by the day.”
 
The letter was signed by Ted Deutch, Gerald Connolly, David Cicilline, Lois Frankel, Tulsi Gabbard, Brendan Boyle, Ted Lieu, Bradley Schneider and Thomas Souzzi.
 
Lead photo: Times of Israel.

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