BY NATASHA MOZGOVAYA, AP–
The Palestinians are slated to receive some 200 million dollars in U.S. security assistance after a top House Republican ended her hold on the money.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, informed the Obama administration in recent weeks that she no longer would block 50 million dollars in economic support funds for the Palestinian Security Forces and 148 million dollars in other assistance.
In separate letters to the State Department and USAID, Ros-Lehtinen cited President Barack Obama certification that the funds were in the national security interests of the United States as well as word that the government of Israel did not object to the assistance. The letters were sent in September and October.
In an interview with The Associated Press last month, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the administration has reached out to Israel, which has an interest in maintaining security aid to the Palestinians, to help urge Congress to continue assistance. “We’re asking the Israelis on a case-by-case basis,” she said.
Ros-Lehtinen had blocked the funds in late August just as the Palestinians were gearing up to seek statehood recognition at the United Nations. The lawmaker placed an “informational hold” on the money, seeking material from the administration. The Palestinians pursued that move despite strong objections from the United States and Israel.
Brad Goehner, a spokesman for the committee, said Monday that the administration had provided the panel with some 1,000 pages of documents.
The Palestinians have received about 500 million dollars a year from the U.S. alone in recent years, including tens of millions of dollars for training the Palestinian security services. The partial suspension of aid by Congress had mainly affected development and infrastructure programs being supervised by USAID but not the support for the security services.
The United States recently stopped 60 million dollars in aid to UNESCO after it admitted the Palestinians as a member. Ros-Lehtinen stands firm on that issue, saying recently that she opposes any attempts to change U.S. law that requires a cutoff of American funds to any UN entity that gives membership to the Palestinian Liberation Organization.
“That is the right policy, and it must continue in order to deter other UN entities from following in UNESCO’s footsteps,” Ros-Lehtinen said.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland commented Monday on the matter, saying that “it would be most welcome on our side. Our focus had been on working with members of Congress to make clear why we continue to believe that this money is important.” She added: “Israeli officials have the same interests that we have in ensuring that we can all support stability in the Palestinian territories.”