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Admin to Continue ‘Essential’ Palestinian Aid Despite Next Statehood Bid

The last congressional freeze was lifted by Obama for "national security" reasons on a Friday night.

by
Bridget Johnson

Bio

August 17, 2012 - 2:15 pm

The Obama administration indicated this week that it will continue funding the Palestinian Authority despite pushback from Congress.

At the end of April, the White House announced on a Friday night that, despite President Mahmoud Abbas’ unilateral attempts to garner a declaration of statehood for the territories, it was “important to the national security interests of the United States” to waive the funding restriction.

That announcement came shortly after the Obama administration granted another waiver to give Egypt its full $1.3 billion in military aid despite the congressional conditions that mandated the country take democratic steps to receive the funding. Again, the waiver was granted on national security grounds.

Last month, the Palestinians denied reports that the U.S. was threatening to cut aid if the PLO continues a statehood push at the United Nations, even as congressional efforts continue to block the funding.

But on Tuesday, the Palestinian Authority was trying to round up support among foreign diplomats for a renewed statehood bid, reported the BBC. Hanan Ashrawi, a PLO executive committee member, said that the territories would need a financial “safety net” in case the U.S. cut off aid because of the move.

“In light of the failed peace process and the inability of the international community to hold Israel accountable for its illegal occupation of Palestine and its countless unilateral violations of international and humanitarian law, Palestinians will persist in their efforts to seek state status, whether in the UN Security Council or in the UN General Assembly,” Ashrawi said.

“We reserve the right to undertake diplomatic and non-violent means to approach UN agencies and organizations for membership, and such efforts, consistent with the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and freedom, are a test of global consensus and rule of law.”

But according to the State Department, the Palestinians can rest easy about their chunk of cash from Washington.

“We continue to make clear to the Palestinian Authority leadership at all levels …that we continue to oppose any efforts to advance their cause through the U.N. before they have had a full settlement with Israel,” State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland said Wednesday. “That’s not the right sequence, and it’s not going to lead to peace, it’s not going to lead to two states living side-by-side in security. So that’s the message that we continue to give.”

When pressed on whether funding was at risk, Nuland said, “You know that our Congress has been strong on these issues; we have been pretty strong on these issues. There are a number of legislative things on the books, of which the Palestinians are well aware.”

But yesterday, Nuland was asked at the daily press briefing about the $200 million in budget support that usually arrives at the Palestinian Authority in June. She said that the administration is “still working with the Congress on some of the 2012 money, but the 2011 money did move forward.”

Today, the State Department released a statement confirming that $200 million in direct support to the Palestinians did make it to Ramallah for FY 2011, and they are “working with the Congress to ensure continued U.S. support for the Palestinians, including $200 million in direct budget support this fiscal year (2012).”

“Our view remains that our assistance to the Palestinian people is an essential part of the U.S. commitment to a negotiated two-state solution for Palestinians and Israelis, promoting a comprehensive peace in the Middle East,” Nuland continued in the statement. “It is in the interest not only of the Palestinians, but of Israel and the U.S. as well, to ensure these efforts continue as they help to build a more democratic, stable and secure region.”

The Palestinian Authority has expressed its intention to first be admitted as a non-member observer state at the UN, which needs a simple majority at the General Assembly. By improving PLO chances of joining committees, the Palestinians would press forward with a full statehood bid on an unknown timetable.

The administration threatened to veto Abbas’ bid at the UN last September. The following month, Congress blocked $200 million in aid as a response to the statehood application — aid that was set free by Obama’s order this spring.

Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.
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