Fulfilling a campaign promise to restore aid to the Palestinians cut off by President Trump, President Biden announced plans to provide the Palestinians with $290 million in assistance. The State Department insisted the allocation was consistent with U.S. law though some members of Congress said it violated the Taylor Force Act which prohibits U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority (PA) until it ends its pay-to-slay policy of providing stipends to terrorists in Israeli jails and the families of suicide bombers.
At the end of March 2021, the administration announced it was providing $15 million in coronavirus assistance and another $75 million in assistance for infrastructure, health, and civil society groups. At the beginning of April, the administration informed lawmakers that it would give the Palestinians $40 million for law enforcement and security and another $10 million for peacebuilding programs through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
“Supporting an enduring solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a core U.S. national security objective,” the State Department said in the notification. “As an essential part of this effort, U.S. government assistance seeks to build professional and accountable security and criminal justice institutions that maintain security and stability in the West Bank, uphold the rule of law, contribute directly to regional security, and protect the population.”
The State Department also announced resumption of support for UNRWA. The department said the contribution of $150 million to the agency was needed for UNRWA services. It also justified the reversal of policy by stating “the United States needs to be at the table to ensure that the reforms advance efficiencies and are in accord with our interests and values.”
The department also stated:
Contradicting the claim that the aid aligns with the interests of our allies, Israel’s foreign ministry said of the aid to UNRWA, “Israel's position is that the organization in its current form perpetuates the conflict and does not contribute to its resolution.” Gilad Erdan, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, was more explicit: “I have expressed my disappointment and objection to the decision to renew UNRWA’s funding without first ensuring that certain reforms, including stopping the incitement and removing anti-Semitic content from its educational curriculum, are carried out.”
The department called on other donors to “support programs and activities that work toward a comm.on goal of stability and progress for Israelis and Palestinians alike.”
The resumption of aid came despite a Government Accountability Office report that found the U.S. government had not properly vetted all of its Palestinian funding recipients for U.S. antiterrorism criteria as required by law.
Sources: Matthew Lee, “US boosts aid to Palestinians as some in Congress cry foul,” AP, (April 6, 2021).
“The United States Restores Assistance for the Palestinians,” U.S. State Department, (April 7, 2021).
Tovah Lazaroff, “Israel slams Biden's resumption of UNRWA funding for Palestinians,” Jerusalem Post, (April 8, 2021).
“After restoring aid to Palestinians, Biden endorses two-state solution,” Times of Israel, (April 8, 2021).