A group of GOP lawmakers got together on Thursday to block a plan by the Biden administration to give a total of $235 million to the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the United Nations Relief and Works Association (UNRWA).
On March 26, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) presented Congress with a “program narrative” of $75million that would take effect 15 days after the notification was received, meaning the funding would begin on April 10 (Saturday).
Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), a ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the lead Republican of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, stopped the US AId notification from reaching the committees, effectively delaying the initiation of the funding. to stop the USAID’s notification about the reinstated funding from reaching the committees, which means the aid will not begin as scheduled.
On Wednesday, the State Department announced a financial package of $290 million intended to give $75 million for development projects in Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip, $40 million for Palestinian security forces, $15 million for COVID assistance, and an additional $10 million for Palestinian-Israeli coexistence programs.
“The PA is spending millions annually to compensate terrorists while the international community pays for the well-being of the Palestinian people,” Risch and McCaul said in a statement. “A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report rightly calls for increased oversight of Palestinian assistance to ensure compliance with anti-terrorism policies. The Biden administration should use all available leverage to secure behavior changes from the PA, including ending terror payments.”
They cited the Taylor Force Act which prohibits giving any American economic aid to the Palestinian Authority until the PA ceases paying stipends through the Palestinian Authority Martyr’s Fund to individuals who commit acts of terrorism and to the families of deceased terrorists.
The newly reinstated aid does not technically include direct financial assistance to the PA due to the restrictions of the Taylor Force Act.
The restoration of aid to the PA as part of Biden’s campaign platform to reverse the policy of the Trump administration which cut off funding to the PA and UNRWA. It should be noted that in the last year of the Obama administration, the US gave $600 million to the PA.
In addition, Sen. ted Cruz (R-TEX) led 18 Republican senators in signing a letter, that called on the Biden administration to delay the new USAID programs until it implements the GAO recommendations to ensure grants do not go to terrorists.
“Since 1993, the US government provided more than $6.3 billion to the Palestinians with the aims of, first, advancing the Palestinians’ capacity to build a state and, second, insulating and distancing Palestinian governance from terrorism,” the letter states. “Measured by the degree to which they have achieved those aims, US programs have not just failed but have been counter-productive, with the money facilitating terrorist incitement and making its way to terrorists.”
The opposition to the reinstatement of funding comes one week after the General Accounting Office, a US government watchdog agency, issued a report showing that USAID fully complied with vetting procedures for primary recipients in the years 2015-2019 and that some of the funding may have reached terrorist organizations.