Obama lifts freeze on $192 million aid package to Palestinian Authority

Funding serves ‘security interests of the US,’ says president. Congress blocked it after Abbas’s bid for UN recognition of ‘Palestine’

US President Barack Obama, left, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in 2008 (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90/File)
US President Barack Obama, left, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in 2008 (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90/File)

US President Barack Obama has lifted a ban on financial aid to the Palestinian Authority. An official with the US Agency for International Development said Saturday that the money had been restored.

Obama stated that the aid was “important to the security interests of the United States.”

The US Congress froze a $192 million aid package to the Palestinian Authority after its president, Mahmoud Abbas, defied US pressure and sought to attain UN endorsement of Palestinian statehood last September. The presidential waiver means that aid can now be delivered.

The unilateral statehood gambit was strongly opposed by Israel, which said Abbas was seeking to avoid negotiating the necessary compromises and modalities of statehood with Israel. The US indicated it would veto a resolution in the Security Council seeking unilateral recognition of “Palestine,” but the issue has not come to a vote, because the Palestinians were unable to obtain sufficient support in the Security Council. They may yet seek a non-binding endorsement of statehood in the UN General Assembly.

Section 3 of Congress’s Palestinian Accountability Act, which applies to 2012, stipulates that “no funds available to any United States Government department or agency … may be obligated or expended with respect to providing funds to the Palestinian Authority.” Obama has now signed a waiver, however, the White House said Friday, and asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to inform Congress accordingly.

The AFP news agency quoted White House spokesman Tommy Vietor as saying the $192 million aid package would be devoted to “ensuring the continued viability of the moderate PA government under the leadership of [Palestinian Authority] President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.”

Vietor added that the PA had fulfilled its major obligations, such as recognizing Israel’s right to exist, renouncing violence and accepting the Road Map for Peace.

Earlier in April, the Middle East peacemaking “Quartet” expressed concern about the “increasing fragility” of the Palestinian Authority, which requires $1.1 billion in financial aid. A statement on behalf of the Quartet called on the two sides to work together to improve Palestinian governance and expand economic opportunities for the Palestinian people.

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