Trump administration to reconsider releasing $221 million to PA

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BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — United States President Donald Trump’s administration has reportedly frozen the $221 million dollars that former president Barack Obama had released to the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the final hours of his presidency earlier this week, according to international and Israeli news outlets.

According to Business Insider, the US State Department is “reviewing” the last-minute decision that was made in defiance of Republican members of the US Congress who had put a congressional hold on dispersing the money, despite the funds having received the necessary approval in 2015 and 2016. Multiple media outlets reported that the state department will possibly “make adjustments” to ensure that the transfer “comports with the Trump administration’s priorities.”
The Times of Israel added that the state department informed the PA about the freeze on Tuesday.
According to Israeli daily Haaretz, the money originated from the US Agency for International Development and was meant to be spent on humanitarian aid in the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip and to support the development of good governance strategies in preparation for an independent Palestinian state.
The funds were originally put on hold by at least two Republican lawmakers, Ed Royce of California, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Kay Granger of Texas, who sits on the House Appropriations Committee, according to the Times of Israel.
Following the news of Obama’s release of the funds, Granger released a statement on Tuesday saying that she was “deeply disappointed” by the decision, and that she had “worked to make sure that no American taxpayer dollars would fund the Palestinian Authority unless very strict conditions were met.”
Obama also released $4 million for climate change programs and $1.25 million for UN organizations, both of which a Trump presidency is expected to dramatically roll back spending on.
Trump is also expected to lead the Palestinian-Israeli conflict farther away from any prospective solution, as he has been vocal in his support for moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and has also continued to be a public proponent for Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise.
Following Trump’s election, Israel’s ultra-right Education Minister Naftali Bennett said that a Trump presidency would mark the end of a push for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
“This is the position of the president-elect, as written in his platform, and it should be our policy, plain and simple. The era of a Palestinian state is over,” he said.
Israeli officials have also delayed moving forward various legislation in recent weeks, publicly stating they will more easily advance plans to expand Israeli settlements and consolidate Israeli annexation of the occupied Palestinian territory under the Trump administration.
However, while Obama had publicly condemned Israel’s settlement building in the past, the former president still signed a $38 billion military aid package back in September, promising Israel the hefty sum in the form of financial assistance and missile defense systems over the course of 10 years. The deal represents the largest foreign aid package given to a country in US history.

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