The Biden administration increased its assistance to Palestinians by $38.5 million in the wake of the latest Gaza war and pledged to abide by existing law that bars US aid to the Palestinian Authority as long it continues its prisoner payment policy.
On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken outlined the additional funds that the administration plans to steer to the Palestinians in a statement from the State Department. It came as Blinken wrapped up his trip to Israel and the West Bank where he met with Israeli and Palestinian leaders to discuss sustaining the ceasefire that ended the 11-day rocket exchange this month between Israel and the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group.
Blinken said an additional $33 million would go to UNRWA, the United Nations agency that administers relief to the Palestinians, on top of the $150 million for the agency announced in April.
Along with another $150 million that Congress has approved for humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians for 2020 and 2021 directed to nongovernmental organizations, $5.5 million will be designated for recovery from the war this month, including “emergency shelter, food, relief items, and health care, as well as mental health and psychosocial support for those who experienced trauma,” Blinken said.
He added that the Biden administration would abide by laws that require the money go directly to the Palestinians and not to Hamas or the Palestinian Authority.
The United States bans any assistance to Hamas, a designated terrorist group. The Taylor Force Act bars aid to the Palestinian Authority as long as it subsidizes families of terrorists who have killed Israeli or US civilians as part of its welfare program. Officials in Ramallah told The Times of Israel in December that it is working on amending the policy so it falls into compliance with the US legislation by basing the stipends on recipients’ financial needs rather than the length of the prison sentences.
“US foreign assistance for the Palestinian people serves important US interests and values,” said Blinken in the statement. “It provides critical relief to those in great need, fosters economic development and supports Israeli-Palestinian understanding, security coordination and stability.”
The Trump administration suspended virtually all aid to the Palestinians. US President Joe Biden campaigned on a pledge to restore the funding.
While in the region, Blinken also formally announced plans to reopen a consulate in Jerusalem. The de facto representative to the Palestinians was merged into the US embassy in Jerusalem in 2019.