'US Congress puts block on transfer of $200m. to PA'

One third of US aid to Palestinians has been frozen since August, 'The Independent' reports; move is apparently response to UN bid.

By JPOST.COM STAFF
October 1, 2011 10:15
2 minute read.
Joint session of the US Congress

Joint session of the US Congress 311 (R). (photo credit: Jim Young / Reuters)

 
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The United States Congress reportedly blocked the transfer of $200 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority in what a Palestinian official called "collective punishment" for the PA's bid for membership in the United Nations, UK daily The Independent reported on Saturday.

The unconfirmed report says that an unpublicized block on the transfer of funds, less than one third of the aid sent to the PA annually, has been in place since August.

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The United States is opposed to the Palestinian bid to seek full UN membership and has vowed to veto such a move in the Security Council.

PA spokesman Ghassan Khatib told The Independent that cutting aid to the PA is "unjustified. These are mainly humanitarian and development projects - it is another kind of collective punishment which is going to harm the needs of the public without making any positive contribution."

In mid September, the US House Foreign Affairs Committee began debating cutting off US aid to the Palestinian Authority for breaking ranks with the American-brokered peace process. In her opening statement, Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), credited former President George H.W. Bush in 1989 with “stop[ping] dead in its tracks” attempts by former Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat to seek recognition from various UN agencies after statehood was declared a year before. Ros-Lehtinen called upon President Obama to do the same in 2011 “to stop Abu Mazen’s [PA President Abbas] dangerous unilateral scheme” by suspending funds to any UN agency “that granted membership or any upgraded status to the PA.”

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In July, a key Congressional committee considered a foreign aid bill that threatened funding to the Palestinian Authority and Lebanon, and would codify in law the George W. Bush letter to Ariel Sharon.

The bill, drawn up by Ros-Lehtinen, would also end by 2014 the president’s ability to waive the law that requires him to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as well as mandate that official American documents list Jerusalem as part of Israel. The State Department would also have to report on its diplomatic activities on behalf of Israel to end efforts at isolating it.

Furthermore, it conditions aid to the PA on its recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and ending all anti-Israel incitement in state-owned media, among other measures; while aid to Lebanon includes a stipulation that no member of Hezbollah serve in the government.

Hilary Leila Krieger and The Media Line contributed to this report.

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