Lawmakers release $88.6 million in Palestinian aid (AP) Associated Press) By DONNA CASSATA WASHINGTON 03/23/12 6:47 pm ET)
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WASHINGTON – The Palestinians will receive $88.6 million in U.S.
developmental aid, more than half the assistance that has been on
hold for six months, after top House Republicans dropped their
Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, chairman of the Appropriations
subcommittee on foreign operations, said Friday she would allow all
of the $147 million to flow, arguing that peace and stability were
critical in the Palestinian territories amid the overall unrest in
the Middle East. But Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., chairman of
the Foreign Affairs Committee, sent a letter to the State Department
saying she would not allow more than $88.6 million and would keep her
hold on the remaining $58.6 million.
In a sharply worded letter, Ros-Lehtinen made clear that the
legislative branch has the power to expend funds — and stop them in
She said the money could be spent with the understanding that they
are not used for assistance and recovery in Hamas-controlled Gaza;
road construction projects in the West Bank, except if directly
related to security and projects with permits from Israel in other
areas; and trade facilitation, tourism promotion, scholarships for
Palestinian students and other aid for the Palestinian Authority
agencies and ministries.
Ros-Lehtinen said she will continue to block the $58.6 million
because part of the money is for Gaza assistance and recovery.
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"Just a week after the recent rocket attacks against Israel, the
administration is pressuring Congress to provide resources and
funding for Gaza that allows Hamas the flexibility necessary to
continue its rule over the area," she wrote, arguing the money could
be used by Hamas and other extremists.
The Republican lawmaker also criticized the administration for its
pressure on the issue.
"I am disappointed that the administration would employ hardball
tactics against Congress and threaten to send, over congressional
objections, U.S. taxpayer dollars to the Palestinian Authority," Ros-
Lehtinen wrote. "I hope this is an isolated incident and that we
continue the otherwise productive relationship between the committee,
the State Department and (the United States Agency for International
Last summer, Granger and Ros-Lehtinen had placed a hold on the funds
in response to the Palestinians push for statehood at the United
Nations. The Obama administration and Congress opposed that move,
arguing that any recognition should come through a peace treaty with
But the administration and even Israel have pressured lawmakers to
free up the assistance. In an interview with The Associated Press
last year, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the
administration has reached out to Israel — which has an interest in
maintaining Palestinian security aid — to convince Congress to
"We´re asking the Israelis on a case-by-case basis," she said.
Last November, Ros-Lehtinen lifted her hold on millions in economic
support funds for the Palestinian Security Forces and other
The Palestinians have received about $500 million a year from the
U.S. alone in recent years, including tens of millions of dollars for
training the Palestinian security services.
In a statement, Granger said she had taken "a strong position on aid
to the Palestinian Authority to send a message that seeking statehood
at the United Nations, forming a unity government with Hamas and
walking away from the negotiating table with Israel were not pathways
to peace. Right now it is in our interest — and the interest of our
allies in the region — to allow aid to flow to address security and
humanitarian concerns." (© 2012 The Associated Press 03/23/12)
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