Trump administration releases millions in frozen aid to PA security forces
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Trump administration releases millions in frozen aid to PA security forces

The US has quietly spent some $42 million in the West Bank since May; State Department official says this serves US interests; other programs still being evaluated

Eric Cortellessa covers American politics for The Times of Israel.

US President Donald Trump listens during a campaign rally at Florida State Fairgrounds Expo Hall, Tuesday, July 31, 2018, in Tampa, Florida. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
US President Donald Trump listens during a campaign rally at Florida State Fairgrounds Expo Hall, Tuesday, July 31, 2018, in Tampa, Florida. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration recently released millions of dollars of frozen aid money to the Palestinian Authority, but only for Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation, The Times of Israel learned on Thursday.

While Washington says it will continue to review its assistance to the Palestinians, it chose to allocate specific funds for the current fiscal year to specific PA programs that ostensibly serve American interests, including terrorist prevention measures in the territories, an official said.

“We recently decided to move ahead with FY2017 International Narcotics and Law Enforcement funding for Palestinian Authority security assistance and Non-Proliferation, Anti-Terrorism, Demining and Related Programs (NADR) in the West Bank,” a State Department official said Thursday.

“This assistance underpins Palestinian Authority security cooperation with Israel, which remains in force despite recent tensions,” the official added. “This decision does not in any way prejudge the outcome of our review of other funding streams and programs. It is simply the first decision to emerge from the review, which is ongoing.”

Palestinian Authority security forces touring Israeli-controlled Hebron in uniform on July 31, 2018 (Credit: Wafa)

The official gave no details on exactly how much money was given to the Palestinians.

But the amount appears to be in the region of $42 million. Total US aid spent in the West Bank this year totals $92,796,646, according to the government’s online tracker, www.foreignassistance.gov. In mid May that figure stood at $50.5 million.

The total in bilateral aid planned for the Palestinians in 2018 was $251 million, a figure that does not include an additional $65 million in frozen US assistance to the UN Relief and Works Agency that provides services to Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, and Lebanon. The US aid pays for programs on education, health, good governance, and democracy promotion, as well as disaster preparedness and security.

NPR was the first to report that the US quietly released this funding to Palestinian Authority forces a few weeks ago, quoting a State Department official who said the White House was weighing whether to unfreeze other programs it thinks provide “value to US taxpayers.”

In January, Washington announced it also would withhold the $65 million in assistance to the UN relief agency for Palestinians. The move came after Palestinians protested US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US embassy there.

“We pay the Palestinians HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect,” Trump tweeted on January 3.

In the months since, Democrats in both houses of Congress have sent letters to Trump officials urging a resumption of Palestinian assistance, particularly to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

AP contributed to this report

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