Change: Trump State Department Holds, Reviews Obama’s $221M for Palestinians
President Donald Trump has reportedly stopped the payment of $221 million in U.S. taxpayer funds to the Palestinians, and the State Department is now reviewing the decision to transfer the money.
In the last hours of his presidency last Friday morning, President Barack Obama overrode congressional objections and decided to release the funds. Outgoing Secretary of State John Kerry informed Congress of the administration’s decision, and the public learned about the transfer this week.
Congress had initially approved the Palestinian funding in budget years 2015 and 2016, but at least two GOP lawmakers — Ed Royce of California, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Kay Granger of Texas, who sits on the House Appropriations Committee — had placed holds on it over moves the Palestinian Authority had taken to seek membership in international organizations. Congressional holds are generally respected by the executive branch but are not legally binding after funds have been allocated.
On Tuesday, Rep. Granger issued a statement condemning the Obama administration’s move:
As Chairwoman, I worked to make sure that no American taxpayer dollars would fund the Palestinian Authority unless very strict conditions were met. While none of these funds will go to the Palestinian Authority because of those conditions, they will go to programs in the Palestinian territories that were still under review by Congress. The Obama Administration’s decision to release these funds was inappropriate.
Now, the Trump State Department will review the payment and “might make adjustments to ensure it comports with the Trump administration’s priorities,” the Times of Israel notes.
Congress has attempted to block funding to the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian organizations in the past out of concern that they are inciting anti-Israel hatred and promoting terrorism.