House Dems demand ‘transparency’ over Trump’s review of US aid to Palestinians
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House Dems demand ‘transparency’ over Trump’s review of US aid to Palestinians

Legislators tell president 'humanitarian funds must be restored in order to save innocent lives and prevent Hamas from taking advantage of the situation'

Eric Cortellessa covers American politics for The Times of Israel.

Palestinians collect aid parcels at a United Nations food distribution center in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, January 28, 2018. (Said Khatib/AFP)
Palestinians collect aid parcels at a United Nations food distribution center in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, January 28, 2018. (Said Khatib/AFP)

WASHINGTON — Nine House Democrats demanded greater transparency from the Trump administration on Wednesday, asking for more details on its review process of US aid to the Palestinian Authority and Gaza Strip.

In a letter, the entire Democratic membership of the House Foreign Affairs Middle East Subcommittee asked Trump to share with them the “timeline and metrics” of the White House’s assessment of American assistance to Palestinians.

In January, the administration froze $65 million from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, the main UN agency responsible for providing humanitarian aid and refugee assistance to Palestinians.

The White House also said at the time it was “reviewing” its monetary aid to the Palestinians after PA President Mahmoud Abbas refused to meet with Trump officials over Washington’s recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the US embassy there.

Palestinian refugee children seen inside their family’s house in an impoverished area in Gaza City on January 17, 2018. (Flash90/Wissam Nassar)

Acknowledging the need to ensure that no tax-payer money “is diverted from its intended purposes, or even worse, inadvertently benefiting the terrorist organization Hamas,” the Democratic lawmakers expressed concern that depriving US funds from the Palestinians could exacerbate the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.

“It is unnecessary to withhold funding while conducting this review,” said the letter. “We believe these crucial humanitarian funds must be restored in order to save innocent lives and prevent Hamas from taking advantage of the situation by provoking a dangerous escalation with Israel.”

The legislators further warned that the “impact of the US funding freeze could be catastrophic: 140,000 people will cease to receive emergency food and non-food assistance, 42,000 patients will not receive essential health services, 50,000 youths will lack access to life skills development, and 12,250 people will lose paid entrepreneurship opportunities.”

Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla. speaks during the final day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia , Thursday, July 28, 2016. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

The missive’s signatories include Florida Rep. Ted Deutch, New York Rep. Eliot Engel, Virginia Rep. Gerry Connolly, Florida Rep. Lois Frankel, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, California Rep. Ted Lieu and Illinois Rep. Brad Schneider.

Their request comes as the Trump administration is preparing for the rollout of its anticipated Middle East peace plan. Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, who was tasked with leading the diplomatic effort, has said its unveiling will come in the not-too-distance future, but he has declined to provide a timetable for when that might happen.

The attempts to jump-start the moribund peace process between Israelis and Palestinians have been stalled ever since the Jerusalem decision, with Palestinians declaring the Trump administration forfeited its capacity to act as an honest mediator in negotiations.

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