The Biden administration is seeking to reverse measures taken by former US President Donald Trump.
The Biden administration on Wednesday announced it would provide $ 235 million in U.S. aid to the Palestinians, relaunching funding for the UN agency supporting refugees and restoring other forms of assistance interrupted by the president of the United Nations. era, Donald Trump.
The package, including humanitarian, economic and development aid, was detailed by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken as part of an effort to restore US ties with the Palestinians who all but collapsed during the Mr. Trump’s tenure.
It marked Democratic President Joe Biden’s most important move since taking office on January 20 to keep his promise to roll back some elements of his Republican predecessor’s approach that Palestinians have denounced as being heavily biased in favor of ‘Israel.
The plan provides $ 150 million through the United Nations relief agency UNRWA, $ 75 million in economic and development assistance from the United States and $ 10 million for peacebuilding programs Blinken said in a statement.
Biden’s aides have also indicated that they want to re-establish the goal of a negotiated two-state solution as a priority for US policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
But they have moved cautiously so far, and any major steps will likely wait until the dust clears after the inconclusive March elections in Israel, which will be followed by Palestinian elections slated for the coming months.
The Trump administration blocked almost all aid after severing ties with the Palestinian Authority in 2018. The move was widely seen as an attempt to force the Palestinians to negotiate with Israel on terms the Palestinian leadership called it. effort to deny them a viable state.
The cuts came after the Palestinian leadership decided to boycott the Trump administration’s peace efforts over its decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the US embassy from Tel Aviv, shaking decades of American politics.
This included the cancellation of funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which provides aid and relief services to an estimated 5.7 million registered Palestinian refugees in the occupied West Bank, in the Strip. from Gaza and throughout the Middle East.
US funding resumes
“The United States is pleased to announce that by working with Congress, we plan to restart United States economic, development and humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people,” said Mr. Blinken.
Ahmed Abu Huly, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), said he would organize a Zoom meeting with US State Department official Richard Albright to express his gratitude for the “very supportive support. important “and said he hoped that would be the case. Keep going.
Israel Foreign Ministry spokesman Lior Haiat said: “ With regard to UNRWA, Israel’s position is that the organization in its current form perpetuates the conflict rather than helping to solve it. Therefore, the renewal of assistance to UNRWA must be accompanied by substantial and vital changes. to its nature, objectives and organizational conduct. “
The United Nations has welcomed the restart of funding for UNRWA. “There were a number of countries that had drastically reduced their contributions to UNRWA. We hope the US move will lead others to join … as donors to UNRWA,” he told UNRWA. press UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric.
UNRWA Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini said Reuters the new funding was “extremely welcome,” but said it was also important for the United States to return as a “strategic partner” politically.
Vital programs for Palestine
Blinken said the United States was also “resuming vital security assistance programs” with the Palestinians but did not give details.
However, the administration is likely to refrain for now from resuming direct economic aid to the PA while Biden’s aides consult with Congress on potential legal hurdles, according to a person familiar with the matter. The advice to Congress assured lawmakers that any assistance would comply with US law.
The money that will go to UNRWA does not immediately restore the contributions to the level of $ 365 million the United States gave to the agency in 2017.
Most of the refugees assisted by UNRWA are the descendants of some 7,000,000 Palestinians who were driven from their homes or fled the fighting in the 1948 war that led to the creation of Israel.
The growing number of refugees was cited by the Trump administration in its 2018 funding deferral, then State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert criticizing UNRWA for what she called a “Community of beneficiaries in infinite and exponential expansion”.
Right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has developed close ties with Mr. Trump, also called for the dismantling of UNRWA.
Shortly after Mr. Biden took office, his administration began to lay the groundwork for restoring relations with the Palestinians as well as renewed aid. Mr Biden’s aides are developing a more detailed plan to restore ties, two people familiar with the matter said Reuters in mid-March.
The administration announced late last month that it was giving $ 15 million to vulnerable Palestinian communities in the West Bank and Gaza to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic.