Obama gives $147m aid to Palestinians

2012-04-28 23:05
Jerusalem - American aid officials said on Saturday they will restore development programs for Palestinians after President Barack Obama ended a six-month funding freeze that shut down the local Sesame Street and other projects.

An official with the US Agency for International Development confirmed that $147m, which pays for infrastructure, education, humanitarian aid and health projects, had been restored.

But the official could not say specifically whether Palestinian Sesame Street would resume.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.

US opposed Palestinian bid

In October, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, froze $192m earmarked for assistance to Palestinians as a penalty for their United Nations membership bid in September.

The Palestinians attempted to gain international recognition via admittance to the UN, but they did not muster enough support.

The US opposed the UN bid, saying it preferred negotiations as a way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Ros-Lehtinen used her power as a lawmaker to place a hold on money Congress had already approved.

Congress later released about $45m. Then in March, Congress released another $88.6m, but with strict limitations that the money could not be used for road construction or Gaza aid, among other areas.

Obama announced on Wednesday he would override Congress and waive restrictions on all the remaining funds. He explained the move as in the "national security interests of the United States".

US derided

Palestinian lawmaker Abdallah Abdallah said the money "will definitely contribute to the betterment of the economic situation, but it's not a substitute for American wrong policy".

He derided the US as "impotent" in criticizing Israeli policies like settlement construction in the West Bank.

Israeli Foreign Ministry deputy spokesperson Ilana Stein said "the US may allocate its funds as it sees fit", but added, "apparently the Palestinians are developing a sense of entitlement to these funds."

The US has contributed about $500m annually to the Palestinians over the past decade, including millions to train security forces.
- AP
Read more on:    us  |  palestine
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