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US paid millions to PA security forces, despite aid freeze

Palestinians can be seen carrying food aid given by UNRWA in Gaza City, Gaza on 15 January 2018 [Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency]
Palestinians can be seen carrying food aid given by UNRWA in Gaza City, Gaza on 15 January 2018 [Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency]

The US has released millions of dollars in frozen aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA), but only for Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation.

The revelations show that the US “chose to allocate specific funds for the current fiscal year to specific PA programmes that ostensibly serve American interests, including terrorist prevention measures in the territories,” a US State Department official said yesterday.

The exact amount given to the PA was not disclosed and reports speculating on the figures have varied. The Times of Israel estimated the figure to stand at $42 million, while Haaretz reported that “an American official told Haaretz the released sum is $61 million, while two other sources claimed it was closer to $35 million”.

US media organisation National Public Radio, added that the US administration is now “deciding which other Palestinian aid projects it might unfreeze, based on whether the projects meet national security interests and policy goals and provide value to US taxpayers”.

PA: Any aid to Gaza must pass through Ramallah

US aid to Palestine has been frozen since the start of 2018, when President Donald Trump’s administration declared an internal review of its policy. The president also announced that $65 million would be withheld from UNRWA, the UN body that provides education, healthcare and social services to Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and occupied East Jerusalem, as well as those Palestinians living in neighbouring Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.

In the wake of cuts to UNRWA funding, the body has been forced to dismiss 13 per cent of its emergency programme workers in the besieged Gaza Strip and move 57 per cent on to part-time contracts. A further 1,000 employees working in emergency programmes are threatened with dismissal. Last week, UNWRA staff in the besieged Gaza Strip protested the move outside the organisation’s headquarters, with deputy head of the UNRWA Staff Union, Amal Al-Batsh, saying that “we came today to tell UNRWA that its harsh measures against the employees working in the emergency programme are unacceptable”.

Palestinians to UN: Do not leave us hungry

In June, the US also froze its civil assistance to the PA in a bid to stop the paying of stipends to families of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons or killed by Israeli occupation forces. The US demanded that the PA cancel laws that guarantee these salaries, take “credible” measures to fight “terror” and condemn “Palestinian terror and violence” before assistance would be resumed. Other countries also followed this US line, with the Israeli Knesset approving a bill to deduct tax revenue from the PA equal to the amount it paid to the families of Palestinian prisoners. In July, Australia announced that it would stop direct aid to the PA citing concern over these so-called “martyr payments”.

#ApartheidState

Relations between the US and the PA have been strained since President Trump announced in December 2017 that he would relocate the US embassy to Jerusalem. In protest of the move, the PA recalled its ambassador to the US and has since boycotted interactions with the superpower. In June, six Palestinian officials scheduled to give a presentation at the UN office in New York were denied US visas without explanation. Palestinian UN Ambassador, Riyad Mansour, told the media that “the Israeli occupying power complicated the matter” further by refusing to allow several of the experts to go to Jerusalem to check on their visas.

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