Updated: May 9, 2021
Last week, the Biden administration quietly resumed sending money to the West Bank and Gaza, pledging close to $100 million in aid, as part of the President’s campaign promise to regain the “trust and goodwill” of the Palestinian community. On Monday, US State Department spokesman Ned Price dodged giving a clear answer when asked about the administration’s position on Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
In back-to-back moves, the administration on Thursday and Friday announced $15 million in aid to help Palestinians combat COVID-19 and possibly as much as an additional $75 million in economic support.
“We continue to believe that American support for the Palestinian people, including financial support, it is consistent with our values. It is consistent with our interests. Of course, it is consistent with the interests of the Palestinian people. It’s also consistent with the interests of our partner, Israel, and we’ll have more to say on that going forward,” Price said of the restart of funds flowing into Palestinian communities.
The Biden administration seems to be counting on the influx of assistance to entice the Palestinians back to the negotiating table with Israel and the US to establish peace in the Middle East.
US law prohibits American aid to fund projects with the Palestinian Authority as long as they continue “pay for slay”– paying salaries to perpetrators (or their families) of attacks on Israel or the US.
Recently, the Government Accounting Office (GAO) found that the US Agency for International Development (USAID) had not properly vetted all of its Palestinian funding between 2015 and 2019, when President Donald Trump cut off much of the aid.
USAID notified Congress that most of the $75 million in assistance will go for short-term projects and assured them that “its assistance does not go to Hamas or other terrorist organizations.” The money is earmarked to help support the health care sector, sanitation and transportation infrastructure, disaster preparedness, and micro-loans for small businesses in Gaza and the West Bank (biblical Judea and Samaria). It is set to be dispersed as early as next week.
Of course, this is just a smoke screen. Just because this money doesn’t go to Hamas, the $75 million will free up funds within the Palestinian Authority’s present budget that can then go to Hamas and to fund their “pay for slay” program mentioned above.
This program encourages Palestinians in dire economic condition to become terrorists. You die a hero, your family is honored, since you are a shahid (martyr) and they get money every month. The blood of future victims will be on Biden’s hands. That $350 million would be better suited if it were invested in the Palestinian economy.
“Easier said than done.” says Matthew Continetti of the Washington Free Beacon, “The Taylor Force Act, signed into law in 2018, withholds aid from the Palestinian Authority until the State Department certifies that the ruling party of the West Bank has terminated payments to family members of terrorists. It hasn’t. That was one reason the Trump administration slashed the aid in the first place. Nor is there evidence that suddenly the Palestinians have curtailed the so-called pay-to-slay schemes that incentivize the murder of civilians and the perpetuation of conflict. On the contrary: They bristle at the idea of changing their corrupt and self-destructive ways.”
US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield hailed the COVID-19 aid as “one piece of our renewed commitment to the Palestinian people” and said, “the United States looks forward to continuing its work with Israel, the Palestinians, and the international community to achieve a long-sought peace in the Middle East.”
To achieve that peace, President Biden advocates a two-state solution. On Monday, Price was asked at a State Department briefing whether a Palestinian state would have east Jerusalem as its capital. The previous Trump administration had firmly declared that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.
At first, Price evaded a clear answer saying that there was not a “yes or no” answer. When pressed further, he said, “There has been no change in our position in Jerusalem, and of course, Jerusalem is a final status issue that is to be negotiated by the two parties.”