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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Who oversees US aid to Palestinian Arabs? (Joffe)

A very important article by Alexander Joffe in Hudson-NY:
In Palestinian economics, where all the money goes is unclear -- but where does all the money come from? Which U.S. programs give how much and who has legislative oversight? Now that Palestinian Authority (PA) prime minister Salaam Fayyad has announced a plan for September for unilateral Palestinian statehood, which includes a request for $5 billion over three years -- and presumes that the newly announced Fatah-Hamas rapprochement does not scuttle all American aid -- the problem of oversight is all the more pressing.

...Economic Support Funds provided by USAID can not go directly to the Palestinian Authority without a waiver to the Appropriations Committee from the U.S. president saying that it is in the interest of U.S. national security to provide them, and and a certification from the Secretary of State regarding the PA's treasury, payroll and civil service – all according to section 2106 of chapter 2 of title II of Public Law 109-13, a 2005 emergency supplemental defense and relief bill (and Public Law 108-199 of 2004 before it).

Public Law 109-13, for example, requires, among other things, that the President certify that Palestinian security services have purged their ranks of terrorists, that the Palestinian Authority stop incitement against Israel, and that it cooperate with the US. in investigations of Yassir Arafat's finances. These waivers have been provided annually despite the fact that Palestinian incitement continues, Palestinian security forces are still laden with terrorists, and Yassir Arafat's money is still missing.

...In fact, the legislative system of appropriations and oversight matters very little when it comes to U.S. aid to the Palestinians: the system of foreign aid permits the president to independently "certify" or "waive" requirements introduced by Congress. It demonstrates the extent to which U.S. aid to the Palestinians is an instrument of Executive policy rather than an altruistic enterprise authorized by the Legislative branch.

....Legislation proposed in Congress to limit or condition funds to the Palestinian Authority or UNRWA are largely meaningless in this light. The "UNRWA Humanitarian Accountability Act," for example, offered by Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in 2010, demanded that UNRWA not be used by or support Palestinian terrorists. But like the appropriations bills described above, it offers the Executive branch an out by requiring only "a written determination by the Secretary of State, based on all information available after diligent inquiry, and transmitted to the appropriate congressional committees along with a detailed description of the factual basis therefore." Such a statement is a foregone conclusion. The mechanisms for Congress to review results independently, hearings, reports from Congressional staff, the Congressional Research Service, and the Government Accountability Office, have no weight except in the politics of the next appropriations cycle.

Aid the Palestinians is a microcosm of the larger question of how U.S. foreign aid works. Now that Hamas will evidently join Fatah in a Palestinian Authority poised to declare statehood and request vast additional support, creating genuine Congressional oversight -- with teeth -- should be addressed once again.
Read the whole thing.