(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)
Ramallah – US has announced the release of the $221 million for Palestinians, which President Donald Trump had previously frozen and put under review after former US President Obama had ordered at the “last minute” of his presidency.
US State Department had confirmed that the money will be used for services in the West Bank and will not go directly to the authorities’ treasury.
A Palestinian official told Asharq Al-Awsat that most of this money had been allocated to foreign organizations working within the Palestinian territories.
Speaking during a press briefing on Wednesday, State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters that to his understanding the money had been released, but also said that the issue was still under review.
“220.3 million that was released was for West Bank programs such as water, infrastructure, education, renewable energy, civil society, municipal governance, and the rule of law, as well as Gaza recovery. And a smaller amount was to go directly to Israeli creditors of the Palestinian Authority as well as East Jerusalem hospitals. None of the funding was to go directly to the Palestinian Authority,” explained Toner.
The official stated that these funds were never assigned to the authority and were not a donation from former President Obama.
“We don’t know why Trump decided to freeze them, and then released them,” said the official.
He added that the majority of these funds will be given to international organizations in Palestine. “Most of the money will be given to United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for projects within the Palestinian authorities,” according to the official.
The funds included $180 million from USAID, $25 million to support Palestinian hospitals and $45 million to pay for fuel purchased from Israel.
He then explained that the funds were supposed to be given before the end of 2016, but they were delayed until Obama ordered the transfer, few hours before leaving the White House.
On January 20, and just few hours before Trump’s inauguration, Obama informed the congress that he will send the money. The money was frozen after the Congress’ recommendation as a punishment for the authorities’ attempts to join UN organizations and for instigation.
Though it is not legally binding, the White House abode by the Congress’ decision. Hours before Trump’s arrival, former US secretary of state John Kerry informed the Congress of the transfer.
Trump’s administration then announced it had frozen the grant in order to make adjustments to ensure it complies with the new administration’s priorities.
The relations between Trump’s administration and the Palestinian authority are not exactly strong, despite the few meetings made. Major conflict rose when Palestine stated it won’t accept any solution other than the two-state solution, while Trump declared it is not the only solution available.
Palestinians are afraid Trump will transfer the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, warning that this will be an admission that Quds is Israel’s capital, thus ending any US role in the peace process.
Yet, Palestinians are seeking better relations with the US. Chief of Palestinian Intelligence Majid Faraj met with US security officials.
Then, US Director of CIA Mike Pompeo met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah. But, till now, no contact has been established at the level of the White House or the State Department.