U.S. lawmakers submitted to pressure from the international community on Friday (March 23) and released $88.6 million in U.S. development aid for the Palestinian territories — a move welcomed by the territories’ prime minister.
Salam Fayyad said the assistance is “very important” to help the Palestinian Authority deal with the current fiscal crisis threatening the Palestinian economy, Reuters reports. But he hopes the full amount would be released soon.
Republican Reps. Kay Granger of Texas and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida froze $147 million in development assistance for Palestinians in August following their statehood bid at the United Nations. But on Friday, Granger, who chairs the House Appropriations Subcommitee on State-Foreign Operations, released her hold on the aid package.
Granger said it is in America’s interest and that of its allies in the region to “allow aid to flow” to Palestinians. The international community, including the International Monetary Fund, warned of a deepening financial crisis — sparked by a decline in foreign aid and Israel’s trade restrictions — in the Palestinian territories and urged donors to make good of their pledges.
But the package was not released in full. Ros-Lehtinen, who chairs the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, told U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a letter that she was only willing to lift her hold on $88.6 million of the aid package.
Ros-Lehtinen said she was freeing up the money with the understanding that it would not be used for assistance and recovery programs in Hamas-run Gaza, road projects in the West Bank, trade facilitation, tourist promotion or scholarships for Palestinian students, the National Journal reports. She, however, supports the administration’s list of projects aimed at addressing humanitarian concerns in the region.
Washington insiders on Wednesday (March 21) said there were indications at least $70 million of the frozen development aid package to the Palestinian territories would be released soon.
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