Congress Divided on US Aid to Palestinian Authority

Debate over whether the United States should suspend assistance to the Palestinian Authority in light of the latter’s application for membership in the United Nations continues in Washington, with a group of House legislators recently making the case for continued financial support.

“Maintaining U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority is in the essential strategic interest of Israel and the United States,” 44 House Democrats wrote in a letter to House Appropriations subcommittee on State and foreign operations heads Kay Granger (R-Texas) and Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), as quoted by Josh Rogin in The Cable.

The lawmakers noted that while there are legitimate concerns over the Palestinians’ bid, these should be weighed against the role of U.S. aid to stability, security and humanitarian efforts in the Palestinian territories as well as Israel.

The U.S. Congress and the administration of President Barack Obama oppose the Palestinian bid, arguing that peace talks should be pursued to find a solution to the conflict between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. The Obama administration, however, has been lobbying against plans to cut U.S. aid to the Palestinian territories.

Palestinian leaders pushed through with the its membership bid at the U.N. General Assembly summit in September, prompting some U.S. lawmakers to put on hold the release of millions of dollars in security and economic assistance for the Palestinian territories.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has relinquished her hold on the $198 million security aid package, but the freeze on some $192 million in economic aid is still in place.

U.S. funding for the specialized agency UNESCO, meanwhile, has been completely cut off following the agency’s move to accept the Palestinian Authority as a full member. The United States is legally bound to stop funding any U.N. entity that grants membership status to the Palestinian Authority before a deal is reached with Israel.

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About the author

  • Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.