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August 6, 2013 12:41 pm

Analyst: Obama Executive Order to Release $148 Million Part of Effort to Bring Gaza Under PA Sway

avatar by Zach Pontz

President Barack Obama meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the Oval Office in 2009. Photo: White House

In an interview with The Algemeiner, Middle East analyst Jonathan Schanzer explained US President Barack Obama’s recent executive order to waive congressional restrictions to allow $148 million to be sent to the Palestinian Authority as a canny move to influence the PA as recently resumed peace talks gather pace this month.

While the Washington Times reported that “some lawmakers oppose the aid, both because of sequestration budget cuts and the Palestinian Authority’s ties to the terrorist organization Hamas,” Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, said it was a logical move by the US.

“At a time like this when you have negotiations there is an inclination to want to provide some inducements,” Schanzer said, adding “the Administration is very aware of the fact that you have a division between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and if there’s ever to be a chance of bringing Gaza back under the control of the PA, we’re going to need to hold up the PA as a success story,” he opined.

Schanzer also believes that the windfall could signal a change in approach, and a recognition of past failed policy, after the US withheld funds to punish the PA for seeking non-state observer status at the United Nations last November.

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“Instead of hurting Abbas, what did it do? It crippled Palestinian President Salam Fayaad, who was seen as a moderate and a friend of the US. This could also then be the US  recognizing that it needs to bolster the PA,” he said.

The $148 million sum is in addition to about $500 million earmarked in March to be sent to the PA, which has jurisdiction over the West Bank. At the time the president also waived restrictions set by Congress.

Boris Zilberman, deputy director of congressional relations at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, added, “oftentimes the full budget might not be approved until a later date, and this is the mechanism by which the president can expedite its disbursement.”
Additional reporting by Joshua Levitt.

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