Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Backgrounder: US aid to Palestinian Arabs

From JTA:
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is holding back nearly $200 million in humanitarian aid to the Palestinians.

Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) is keeping her House of Representatives committee from considering approval of $192 million in humanitarian program assistance, two Capitol Hill sources said.

The money is separate from assistance to the Palestinian Authority, $200 million of which has already been distributed, and instead is earmarked for nongovernmental groups.

Such holds on NGO money have been held in the past pending oversight to show that the NGOs are not working with terrorist groups. Ros-Lehtinen in recent weeks has expressed concern that a tentative agreement to unite the Palestinian Authority with Hamas is already in effect. Hamas is the U.S.-designated terrorist group that controls the Gaza Strip.
So what exactly is going on?

A document from the Congressional Research Service explains how the US spends money on Palestinian Arabs.

The US gives some $200 million a year directly to the Palestinian Authority. This helps pay salaries and so forth, and is not the money that is being reportedly withheld.

The money that Ros-Lehtinen is holding back according to this article is apparently the money earmarked for USAID, also some $200 million annually.

The USAID money is broken down as follows:

• $20 million – governance, rule of law, civil society
• $79.7 million – health, education, social services
• $53.2 million – economic development
• $47.5 million – humanitarian assistance

Beyond that, some $113 million goes directly to the PA's security, law-enforcement and judicial functions.

And there is also some $250 million given to UNRWA annually by the US, making a total of some three quarters of a billion dollars going to the Palestinian Arabs.

Interestingly, among the official limitations on the money to the PA is this one:
No aid is permitted for a future Palestinian state unless the Secretary of State certifies that the governing entity of the state

1. has demonstrated a firm commitment to peaceful coexistence with the State of Israel;

2. is taking appropriate measures to counter terrorism and terrorist financing in the West Bank and Gaza in cooperation with Israel and others; and

3. is working with other countries in the region to vigorously pursue efforts to establish a just, lasting, and comprehensive peace in the Middle East that will enable Israel and an independent Palestinian state to exist within the context of full and normal relationships.

This restriction does not apply to aid meant to reform the Palestinian governing entity so that it might meet the three conditions outlined above. Additionally, the President is permitted to waive this restriction for national security purposes.
So when the US said that it might cut funding to the Palestinian Arabs if they declare a state unilaterally and avoid negotiating and adhering to the Oslo process, it is not a threat (and certainly not "blackmail") - it is an explicit pre-condition for US aid!

(h/t CHA)