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Politics Blinken resumes funding for Palestinians as lawmakers decry terrorist payments

00:10  08 april  2021
00:10  08 april  2021 Source:   washingtonexaminer.com

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the United States will renew aid for Palestinians, touting the funding as a valuable humanitarian gesture that supports peace talks despite Republican complaints that Palestinian officials finance terrorism.

Ned Price et al. sitting in front of a computer screen © Provided by Washington Examiner

“U.S. foreign assistance for the Palestinian people serves important U.S. interests and values,” Blinken said Wednesday. “It provides critical relief to those in great need, fosters economic development, and supports Israeli-Palestinian understanding, security coordination, and stability.”

Blinken added that the funding “aligns with the values and interests of our allies and partners,” but the announcement drew sharp criticism from the Israeli government as well as congressional Republicans. Opponents of the move, at home and abroad, suggested that renewed financing will exacerbate Palestinian terrorist threats to Israel.

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  Biden Is Restoring Aid to the Palestinians. Here's Why That's a Good Thing | Opinion UNRWA isn't perpetuating the conflict; it's a crucial stopgap providing stability in an unstable region, stability that is crucial to getting back to the negotiating table with the hopes for lasting peace. Even when Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands temporarily defunded UNRWA, they maintained that UNRWA "plays an essential role for the security and stability in the region," as the Swiss Foreign Minister told me, sentiments shared by the Netherlands' Foreign Ministry's Director for Multilateral Organizations and Belgium's Foreign Ministry's President of the Direction Committee, who told me at the time that disrupti

“Resuming assistance to the West Bank and Gaza without concessions from the Palestinian Authority (PA) undermines U.S. interests,” Idaho Sen. James Risch and Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, the top Republicans on the congressional committees that oversee U.S. foreign policy, said Wednesday. “The PA is spending millions annually to compensate terrorists while the international community pays for the well-being of the Palestinian people.”

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Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Gilad Erdan protested, in particular, the plan to restore $150 million for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees. An Israeli education watchdog reported in January that the agency’s educational curriculum promotes terrorism, noting that “UNRWA-created material is, in places, more extremist than PA material it complements.”

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Erdan said that he had “expressed my disappointment and objection” to State Department officials, emphasizing Blinken’s team should have forced a rewrite of the curriculum before announcing any plan to release aid.

“Israel is strongly opposed to the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activity happening in UNRWA’s facilities,” Erdan said. “UNRWA is an organization that engages in political advocacy and enables incitement to violence, therefore it should not exist in its current form.”

Risch and McCaul alluded to that issue but directed most of their attention to the issue of funding for terrorism. Congress banned the provision funding that “directly benefits” the Palestinian Authority through the Taylor Force Act, a law adopted in light of the fact that PA officials provide a stipend to the families of terrorists who injure or kill Americans and Israelis, a so-called “pay-to-slay” program.

GOP lawmakers block Biden assistance to Palestinians

  GOP lawmakers block Biden assistance to Palestinians Top Republicans with oversight on foreign affairs are blocking the Biden administration from sending specific aid to the Palestinians, two congressional sources confirmed to The Hill on Friday. The move represents an effort to carry on the hard-line policy of the former Trump administration which eliminated all funding for Palestinians. Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the ranking members of their respective committees on foreign affairs, issued an "info hold" on $75 million in economic and development assistance, according to one of the congressional sources.

“The Biden administration should use all available leverage to secure behavior changes from the PA, including ending terror payments,” Risch and McCaul said.

Blinken’s team emphasized that the U.S. can restore aid to the Palestinians without running afoul of federal law, which contains a multifaceted definition of what would count as aid to the Palestinian Authority. “We take all of that scrupulously into account,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said Wednesday.

Blinken's plan contemplates "$75 million in economic and development assistance in the West Bank and Gaza" [and] "$10 million for peacebuilding programs through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)," in addition to the UNRWA assistance. Risch and McCaul called attention to a Government Accountability Office report that documents the need for a plan to "position USAID to reduce the risk of providing assistance to entities or individuals associated with terrorism," but Price said the State Department "has and will" bear those findings in mind while implementing the funding renewal.

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"It's important to note that this GAO report found no cases of U.S. funding going to parties, providers on the ground, who failed vetting," Price said. "USAID is already taking steps to strengthen its existing extensive anti-terrorism procedures. ... The bottom line here is that this administration is firmly committed to ensuring that all U.S. assistance is provided in accordance with anti-terrorism requirements in all U.S. laws, including the Taylor Force Act."

Tags: News, Foreign Policy, National Security, Palestinian Authority, Palestinians, Antony Blinken, Taylor Force, Israel

Original Author: Joel Gehrke

Original Location: Blinken resumes funding for Palestinians as lawmakers decry terrorist payments

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