The United States is resuming financial assistance to Palestine with at least $235 million, reversing a 2018 decision by then president Donald Trump to discontinue it.
“US foreign assistance for the Palestinian people serves important US interests and values,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday. “It provides critical relief to those in great need, fosters economic development, and supports Israeli-Palestinian understanding, security coordination and stability.”
The revival of assistance to Palestine is yet another reversal of a Trump-era foreign policy decision, joining a growing list that includes efforts currently under way for the US to rejoin (the Iran deal (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action). The US has also rejoined the Paris Agreement on climate and World Health Organization.
The bulk of the US assistance for Palestine – $150 million – will go through the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which was set up 72 years ago to help displaced Palestinian people. Another $75 million will go towards economic and development assistance in the West Bank and Gaza and $10 million for peace-building programmes, Blinken said.
These payments will be disbursed by the US Agency for International Development (USAID).
“The United States is committed to advancing prosperity, security, and freedom for both Israelis and Palestinians in tangible ways in the immediate term, which is important in its own right, but also as a means to advance towards a negotiated two-state solution,” said the secretary of state.
The Palestinian Authority, which is headquartered in Ramallah, welcomed the move. “This is a positive, important and constructive step in the direction of rectifying Palestinian-American relations, which the Trump administration destroyed,” said Ahmad Majdalani, the social development minister of the Palestinian Authority, according to reports. “We believe it can be built upon by dealing with some other outstanding issues.”
The United Nations, which runs UNRWA, also welcomed the US announcement. “We hope that others will now follow suit. There were a number of countries that had greatly reduced or halted contributions to UNRWA. We hope that the American decision will lead others to rejoin as UNRWA donors,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
Trump ended the assistance in 2018 as part of his overall tilt towards Israel. He had also recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and Israel’s sovereignty over Golan Heights, which it had seized from Syria in 1967.
Israel has criticized the resumption of aid. Gilad Erdan, its ambassador to the US and the UN, called it “anti-Israel and anti-Semitic”. “I have expressed my disappointment and objection to the decision to renew UNRWA’s funding without first ensuring that certain reforms, including stopping the incitement and removing anti-Semitic content from its educational curriculum, are carried out,” Ambassador Erdan said.
Congressional Republicans have also opposed the aid resumption and said they will scrutinize the package for violation of American laws.