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Thursday, May 05, 2005

Some Palestinian Aid to go to Hadassah, Israel

Congress is making clear what everyone knows but no one wants to say: Like most pre-teens, the Palestinians are not mature enough to handle their own money.

Yet for some reason everyone is convinced that they are mature enough to have their own state.

Congress imposed the tight restrictions on aid to the Palestinians that President Bush had announced with fanfare in his State of the Union address, possibly dealing a blow to U.S. efforts to support new Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

In the emergency spending bill that lawmakers completed late Tuesday, the White House had sought $200 million 'to support Palestinian political, economic, and security reforms,' as the president said in his February State of the Union address. But the fine print of the document gives $50 million of that money directly to Israel to build terminals for people and goods at checkpoints surrounding Palestinian areas. Another $2 million for Palestinian health care will be provided to Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America, while the allocation of the rest of the money is tightly prescribed.

The bill appears to make it difficult for the White House to give any of the aid directly to the Palestinian Authority, as Palestinians had hoped. Instead, the assistance must be funneled through nongovernmental organizations.

While in theory the White House could seek some sort of waiver on the restrictions to direct aid, a congressional official said the State Department had assured lawmakers that Bush would not seek that authority.