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Biden budget to maintain Israel support, restore Palestinian assistance and ties

US State Department says budget will let US ‘maintain steadfast support’ for Israel, reinstate aid to Palestinians, work to advance ‘freedom, prosperity and security’ for both

US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the economy at the Cuyahoga Community College Metropolitan Campus, May 27, 2021, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the economy at the Cuyahoga Community College Metropolitan Campus, May 27, 2021, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

US President Joe Biden’s spending plan will continue to fund commitments in the Middle East, including Israel, while also renewing funding for humanitarian aid for Palestinians, the State Department announced Friday.

“The United States will maintain steadfast support for Israel as the Administration renews relations with Palestinian leadership, restores economic and humanitarian assistance for Palestinians, and works to advance freedom, prosperity, and security for the Israeli and Palestinian people alike,” the agency said in a statement.

The budget will include funding for assistance programs for Palestinians, including the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

Last month, the US resumed funding for the troubled agency, saying it has the commitment of UNRWA to “zero tolerance” for anti-Semitism, racism or discrimination.

Students at the UNRWA Rimal Girls Preparatory School in Gaza City, January 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Then-president Donald Trump had cut funding for UNRWA in 2018, with US officials saying the agency’s precept — treating millions of Palestinians as refugees — perpetuated the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

At the time of the Biden administration’s announcement, Israel, which had held off on criticism of the US president in his first months of office, denounced the move to provide assistance to the agency which provides housing, schools and other care to more than six million Palestinians.

Israel argues that the education provided by UN-backed schools includes incitement against the Jewish state.

In this file photo taken on February 2, 2020, a child stands next to a sack of flour as people come to receive food aid from a United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) distribution center in Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

The Trump administration also closed the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s diplomatic mission in Washington, and shuttered the US consulate in Jerusalem, which served as the de-facto embassy to the Palestinians in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.

Biden campaigned on reopening both offices as well as a pledge to restore the funding.

The Biden administration has also pledged emergency aid following the 11-day conflict between the rulers of the Gaza Strip, the Hamas terror group, and Israel.

Israel’s Iron Dome aerial defence system is launched to intercept a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip, above the southern city of Ashkelon, on May 17, 2021. (Ahmad Gharabli / AFP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced on Wednesday that the US would provide $5.5 million in immediate disaster assistance for Gaza and a little over $32 million for UNRWA’s emergency humanitarian appeal.

These funds are part of the $360 million the US is in the process of sending to the Palestinians, Blinken said.

It was not immediately clear what the funding for Israel would include, however Blinken has said the US would assist in replenishing the Iron Dome rocket-interception system following the recent fighting.

The US budget incorporates the administration’s eight-year, $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal and its $1.8 trillion American Families Plan and adds details on Biden’s $1.5 trillion request for annual operating expenditures for the Pentagon and domestic agencies.

This year’s projected deficit would set a new record of $3.7 trillion that would drop to $1.8 trillion next year — still almost double pre-pandemic levels. The national debt will soon breach $30 trillion after more than $5 trillion in already approved COVID-19 relief. As a result, the US government must borrow roughly 50 cents of every dollar it spends this year and next.

Acting White House budget chief Shalanda Young said the Biden plan “does exactly what the president told the country he would do. Grow the economy, create jobs and do so responsibly by requiring the wealthiest Americans and big corporations to pay their fair share.”

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