US Congress Endorses $150 Million in Palestinian Aid, Bucking Trump Policy
In a reversal of the Trump administration’s approach to Palestine, the U.S. Congress is endorsing a 2020 budget with $150 million earmarked for Palestinian aid.
The United States Congress agreed on Monday to grant a $150 million aid package to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem, bucking a trend by the Trump administration to cut aid and support for Palestinian causes.
The aid package was introduced as part of Congress’s 2020 budget and included $3.3 billion in aid to Israel. According to Haaretz, $75 million of the Palestinian package will be used to support Palestinian security, while the other $75 million will be dedicated to civilian and humanitarian programs in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Congress’ new financial approval comes against the backdrop of recent measures by the Trump administration seen as furthering the Israeli-cause and against the Palestinian people, including the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization.
In late 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump declared eastern and western parts of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, despite Palestinian claims to the city. In May of 2018, Trump ordered the U.S. embassy to Israel moved from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem.
Trump’s declarations coincided with other unprecedented moves, including shutting down the representative office of the Palestine Liberation Organization in Washington and cutting off U.S. annual financial contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, as well as funds for the Palestinian Authority, itself.
In response, the Palestinian Authority severed ties with Washington, declared a boycott of the Trump administration and has not made any official contact with the administration since.
In June 2019, the Trump administration sponsored an economic conference in Bahrain aimed at garnering support for the Trump administration’s vision for peace between Israel and Palestine. However, the Trump administration’s vision, dubbed the “Deal of the Century,” does not honor a two-state solution as has been long envisioned and supported by former U.S. administrations.
The Deal of the Century primarily proposes an economic solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict and does not address the root-causes of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
According to the Times of Israel, the White House had requested a sum of $175 million to be used for Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts in a Diplomatic Progress Fund but had not requested any direct funding for Palestinians. Congress left off the $175 million in the 2020 budget, and instead added the $150 million direct aid package to Palestine.
A source told Haaretz that Congress rejected the White House’s request due to budgetary and not political concerns. Congress, reportedly, did not think the White House’s peace plan would be implemented any time soon.
According to the Times of Israel, President Trump is likely to sign Congress’ budget in order to avoid another government shutdown.
”The president is poised to sign it and to keep the government open,” top White House adviser Kellyanne Conway was quoted as saying.
Congress’s $150 million Palestinian aid package came with multiple caveats, including a stipulation that the funds should not go to the Palestinian Authority in Gaza or to any institution that has ties to terrorism.
The U.S. has blacklisted the Palestinian group Hamas as a terrorist organization since the party won Palestine’s parliamentary elections in 2006 and took over Gaza, ousting the Fatah party of the western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Washington, along with other key international players, has shunned Hamas, unless the party renounces violence, recognizes Israel and accepts past-signed peace agreements between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel.