One of the first decisions the Trump government took after becoming President was to freeze $220.3 million that his predecessor President Obama earmarked for the PA just before he left the White House.
However, the State Department has confirmed that Obama's money has reached its destination. Acting State Department spokesman Mark Toner said last Wednesday in a press briefing that the money was mostly for humanitarian purposes in the Palestinian Authority and Gaza, and in part used to pay Israeli creditors of the PA.
"None of the funding was to go directly to the Palestinian Authority," stressed Toner in response to questions on the subject.
At the same time, Toner criticized the conduct of UNRWA: "UNRWA is obviously something where ...we’ve been very vocal about our concerns given some of the allegations ... some of UNRWA’s programs and how it’s spent or used some of its funding...we certainly made those concerns clear to UNRWA’s leadership."
The disbursal was one of President Obama's last acts in the White House, and it was approved just hours before the exchange of Presidents.
It was reported back in January that Republican members of Congress had been holding up the money to the PA, but a State Department official and several congressional aides said at the time that the outgoing administration formally notified Congress it would spend the money right before Donald Trump was sworn into office.
More than $227 million in foreign affairs funding was released at the time, including $4 million for climate change programs and $1.25 million for UN organizations, according to AP.
The Obama administration had for some time been pressing for the release of the money for the Palestinian Authority, which comes from the U.S. Agency for International Development and is to be used for humanitarian aid in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, to support political and security reforms as well as help prepare for good governance and the rule of law in a future Palestinian state, according to the notification sent to Congress quoted by the news agency.
Republican Senator Rand Paul later introduced a bill that would immediately halt aid to the PA until it halts its effort to join the ICC.
In September of 2011, a $192 million aid package was frozen by Congress after the PA submitted a failed unilateral bid for United Nations membership.
In April of 2012, Obama bypassed a Congress block and signed a waiver declaring that aid to the Palestinian Authority is “important to the security interests of the United States.
Congress authorized the transfer amount to the PA, but at least two Republican lawmakers acted to prevent the fund transfer, due to PA actions attempting to join UN organizations as a sovereign entity.
State Department officials said they decided to delay executing the transfer until the new Secretary of State entered office - and it was assured that any funds transfer was consistent with the priorities of the Trump government.
As of now, at least according to Toner's testimony, the frozen money ultimately was transferred to the PA.
By: Mordechai Sones