A White House request to include $175 million in funding that would help pay for Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts was left off a final 2020 Appropriations Bill set to pass Tuesday.
The Trump administration’s request to Congress earlier this year had included a so-called Diplomatic Progress Fund to respond to diplomatic breakthroughs, while slashing aid to the Palestinians to zero.
Instead, the $1.4 trillion government spending package includes $150 million for Palestinian security and humanitarian aid, while leaving off the diplomatic fund. It also includes $3.3 billion in aid to Israel as part of the Memorandum of Understanding.
A source familiar with budget negotiations told the Haaretz newspaper that the rejection was down to budgetary, not political reasons, because Congress doesn’t believe the peace plan will be launched any time in the near future.
When the White House asked for the money in March it said the funding was needed to give “flexibility” in its Middle East policy and indicated that most of the it would be spent on Palestinian aid, according to the newspaper.
The package, some 2,313 pages long, was unveiled Monday as lawmakers prepared to wrap up reams of unfinished work against the backdrop of Wednesday’s vote on impeaching US President Donald Trump.
The White House said Tuesday that Trump will sign the measure.
”The president is poised to sign it and to keep the government open,” said top White House adviser Kellyanne Conway.
According to Haaretz, the diplomatic fund would have been used to quickly funnel money to the Palestinians should ties between Ramallah and Washington warm.
A source speaking to the paper said other discretionary funds could be found in the case that progress is made on the peace front.
“No one in Congress will stand in the way of a peace plan if it seems like it has a chance to succeed,” the source said.
The $150 million in aid to the Palestinians includes several pages of caveats, such as money not go to the Palestinian Authority in Gaza or to any institution named for a terrorist.
The administration had sought no money for Palestinian aid, down from $250 million in fiscal year 2019.
The PA has boycotted Washington since Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017. The administration responded by cutting aid to the Palestinians.
The peace plan has been plagued by persistent delays, with Washington waiting for Israel’s year-long political stalemate to end before rolling it out.
The PA has said it will reject the plan, deriding the Trump administration as biased in favor of Israel.
On Monday a Lebanese TV station, claiming to have obtained a copy of the peace plan, asserted that it envisions a tripartite agreement providing for Palestinian statehood to be signed by Israel, the West Bank-based Palestine Liberation Organization and the Hamas terrorist group that rules the Gaza Strip.
The reported details of the plan were widely covered in Hebrew-language media late Monday, but there was no official confirmation from the US on the accuracy of the report.