Some members of the U.S. Congress are reportedly blocking the release of some $200 million worth of financial aid for the Palestinian territories — a move Palestinian Authority officials said is a “collective punishment” for its statehood campaign at the United Nations.
The decision to withhold the funds, which are intended for health care, infrastructure projects and food aid, was reached in August by the foreign affairs committees of both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives, according to the Guardian.
The two committees want the money frozen “until the Palestinian state issue is sorted out,” the Agence France-Presse says, citing U.S. congressional aides.
The U.S. government has voiced opposition to the Palestinian Authority’s move to seek recognition for an independent Palestinian state at the United Nations, with lawmakers repeatedly threatening aid cuts if the campaign pushes through.
U.S. President Barack Obama also noted in his speech at the 66th U.N. General Assembly in September that peace in the Middle East “will not come through statements and resolutions at the United Nations.”
But the Obama administration appears to be against using aid cuts to force the Palestinian Authority to drop its bid. Administration officials are reportedly negotiating the release of the frozen funds, which were supposed to have been transferred by the end of the U.S. fiscal 2011 on Sept. 30, the Guardian notes.
Obama also issued in August a presidential memorandum to waive an existing legal provision that restricts U.S. funding for the Palestinian Authority.
Meanwhile, Arab countries have pledged to step up their assistance to the Palestinian Authority amid possibility of U.S. aid cuts.
“The Arabs will assist the Palestinian Authority,” Arab League president Nabil al-Arabi said, as quoted by the Haaretz news agency.
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