U.S. Freezes $200 Million in Humanitarian Aid to Palestinians Over U.N. Statehood Bid

Israelis march in Tel Aviv to support Palestinian statehood.

Originally published on Tikkun Daily

As the Obama administration aggressively works behind the scenes to derail Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ statehood bid at the U.N., The Independent is reporting that Congress has been involved in its own secret, targeted assault on the Palestinians.

In what can only be described as a form of collective punishment against the Palestinian people for the PA’s multilateral efforts at the U.N., Congress has blocked nearly $200 million earmarked for USAID by the Obama administration. The funding was designated for a multitude of humanitarian, educational and infrastructure projects in the West Bank and Gaza, including food aid programs for the poor, health care initiatives and pre-school Sesame Street workshops.

The funds have been secretly frozen since mid-August by several Congressional committees in response to Abbas’ defiant U.N. bid. They were slated to be transferred before the end of the fiscal year, which ended today. The potential impact to both ongoing and future USAID projects will be significant if the funds are frozen indefinitely:

The present block is threatening to delay the start of four new USAID funded projects, covering teacher-training, large-scale road and water infrastructure developments and an Enterprise Development programme designed to improve the competitiveness and capacity of the Palestinian private sector.

A series of existing projects are also at immediate risk unless the funding is unlocked in continuing negotiations between Congressional leaders and the Obama administration.

They include the purchase of supplies by the UN’s World Food Programme for food distribution to impoverished Palestinian families in early 2012, health service reform, training and equipment for the Holy Family hospital in Bethlehem, a pre-school “Sesame Street” workshop, and a Palestinian Authority political programme for developing the functions of ministers.

The move by Congress demonstrates, yet again, that it stands as one of the most anti-Palestinian governing bodies in the world. And while the Obama administration opposes this funding freeze, it has been characteristically reticent to challenge Congress on the move, tiptoeing around the issue due, in part, to its own misguided electoral fears. (While the Jewish vote is significant in several swing states, including Pennsylvania and Florida – 4 and 5 percent respectively – a small percentage of Jews are single-issue voters when it comes to Israel, particularly in the current economic climate.)

Meanwhile, in a diplomatic case of David versus Goliath, the Obama administration is engaged in a full court press to convince several countries, including Nigeria, Gabon and Bosnia-Herzegovina, to vote against the Palestinian statehood bid in the U.N. Security Council. While these three countries have bilaterally recognized Palestine, they have yet to reveal which way they will vote in the UNSC due to American diplomatic pressure.

Regardless of which way other nations vote, President Obama has pledged to veto the Palestinians’ statehood bid at the UNSC. Despite this, American officials are scrambling to erase Palestinian diplomatic gains so that it won’t be forced to exercise its veto and embarrass itself before the world. As it stands, six countries – China, Russia, India, Lebanon, South Africa and Brazil – are expected to vote in favor of the Palestinians’ statehood bid. If Abbas is able to secure a majority of nine countries at the UNSC, the U.S. would be forced to exercise its veto, a move which would further delegitimize America as an objective broker in future peace talks.

The result has been a diplomatic assault by the Obama administration against the Palestinians, an assault now compounded, and made much more complex, by Congress’ funding freeze – a freeze Israel’s government doesn’t even favor.

Update – 10/2/2011 – The Arab League is pledging to fund the Palestinians and make up for the lost U.S. aid. If they follow through, both in the short term as well as in the long term, America’s unfortunate irrelevancy in the Middle East will grow.

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Follow me on Twitter @David_EHG
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About David Harris-Gershon

David Harris-Gershon – a blogger for Tikkun magazine and a freelance writer on Israel, the Middle East and America’s role in the region – has recently published work in The Jerusalem Post, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, AlterNet, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Colorado Review and elsewhere. His memoir – What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife? – is forthcoming from Oneworld Publications (2013). He received his MFA from the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, and has worked extensively as an educator, teaching creative writing and Israeli History / Jewish Studies in university and high school classrooms. Follow David on Twitter @David_EHG

Posted on October 1, 2011, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Boo! Hiss! The US shudn’t try to make things worse for Palestine than they already are…
    What MIGHT get the ball rolling again wud be for both Israel and Palestine to recite their
    major ‘needs’ in a manner that doesn’t cause automatic reaction and rejection by ‘the other
    side’. These items cud be an initial agenda which are discussed by PROFESSIONAL ex-
    perts of each nation…If necessary, these [technocrats?] travel together to affected parts of
    both IL/PAL and after agreeing the best, most-tolerable, ‘courses-to-solution’ report back to
    their respective governments–possibly to legislative committees, NOT to the ‘political re-
    gimes’ only?..Where possible, certain ‘necessary’ joint-bodies [communications, utilities,
    air traffic control, national boundry commissions, prepare large-scale maps and a master
    ‘sandbox’ model with details of land features, buildings, railways, highways, etc.] Certain
    ‘swaps’ of land and infrastructure are agreed…Periodically, details are published; both Is-
    raelis and Pals can ‘attend’ these meetings via public affairs TV and on-line?..In a manner
    reminiscent of former President Jimmy Carter’s ‘back-n-forth’ treaty-composition on a com-
    puter both sides agree a common plan and comment it to their PEOPLES, with an explan-
    ation of important subjects [like the ‘Federalist Papers’]?..This might be ‘the way’ for both
    nations to make a true peace?..Aaron Allen…

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