US to ‘restore’ aid to Palestinians with $235 million funding package
The Biden administration announced Wednesday it will “restore” $235 million in humanitarian funding for programs that support Palestinian economic relief.
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said the U.S. will relaunch policies stopped during the Trump administration, including $150 million for UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) – a funding initiative that has frustrated Republican members of congress.
“I am deeply troubled by recent decisions from the Biden Administration to turn a blind eye to behavior by the Palestinian Authority,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Wednesday.
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“In 2019, the Palestinian Authority provided $343 million to subsidize ‘Pay to Slay’ attacks where terrorists and their families receive cash rewards for attacking Israelis and Americans,” he added alleging the Biden administration was “subsidizing terrorism.”
“UNRWA has been historically antagonistic to Israel and an impediment to peace,” he added in a fiery statement.
Graham’s comments reflect the stark differences some Democrats and Republicans have on the Palestinian issue. But the Biden administration has made it clear it supports finding a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.
The funding will aid Palestinians with healthcare, education and food insecurity.
“The United States is deeply committed to ensuring that our partnership with UNRWA promotes neutrality, accountability, and transparency,” Blinken said Wednesday, adding that providing stability to Palestinian life will help to improve security in the region.
But Israel’s Ambassador to the United States and the UN Gilad Erdan strongly condemned the move by the Biden administration and accused the UN-funded programs of being “anti-Israel and anti-Semitic.”
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“In conversations with the U.S. State Department, I have expressed my disappointment and objection to the decision to renew UNRWA’s funding without first ensuring that certain reforms, including stopping the incitement and removing anti-Semitic content from its educational curriculum, are carried out,” Erdan said following the State Department’s announcement.
“UNRWA is an organization that engages in political advocacy and enables incitement to violence, therefore it should not exist in its current form,” he added.
Blinken said the department will also be distributing $75 million in economic and development assistance programs in Gaza and the West Bank.
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Another $10 million has been set aside for peace-building initiatives through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
“The United States is committed to advancing prosperity, security, and freedom for both Israelis and Palestinians in tangible ways in the immediate term, which is important in its own right, but also as a means to advance towards a negotiated two-state solution,” Blinken said.
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