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October 20, 2021 11:18 am

Senate Proposes $225 Million in Assistance to Palestinians, Echoing Bill Passed by House

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The US Capitol building exterior is seen at sunset as members of the Senate participate in the first day of the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump in Washington, US, January 21, 2020. Photo: REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger. – The Senate Appropriations Committee released its 2022 fiscal year bill this week, which includes $225 million in funding for the Palestinians, mirroring funding passed in the House earlier this year.

According to the State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs bill, the Senate committee is providing $225 million in “development assistance, including for water, sanitation, and other municipal infrastructure projects in the West Bank and Gaza, and $40 million for the Palestinian security assistance program.”

“The funds in the bill support a foreign policy underpinned by vigorous diplomatic engagement, strong alliances and partnerships, a commitment to democratic principles, and humanitarian and development assistance that reflect America’s core values,” said Sen. Christopher Coons (D-Del.), chair of the State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Subcommittee.

The proposed funding is part of a larger effort by the Biden administration to resume assistance to the Palestinians after funding was largely severed during the Trump administration.

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“The bill includes authority for US contributions to the UN Relief and Works Agency [UNRWA] and $50 million to support the second-year implementation of the Nita M. Lowey Middle East Partnership for Peace Act, which focuses on strengthening engagement between Palestinians and Israelis through support to civil society projects that build economic cooperation and people-to-people engagement,” it said.

It remains unclear whether or not the funding for the Palestinians can pass in the Senate.

While the funding bill in the House narrowly passed largely along party lines, the appropriations bill likely faces an uphill battle in the Senate where at least 10 Republicans are needed to join Democrats to break a filibuster and pass. The 2018 Taylor Force Act restricts aid to the Palestinians over its policy of providing payments to the families of terrorists. While the bill does not include direct aid to the Palestinian Authority, Republicans could raise objections to indirectly supporting the PA through these funding proposals.

The bill also includes the annual $3.3 billion in military assistance for Israel as part of the 10-year Memorandum of Understanding signed between the United States and Israel under the Obama administration.

Like legislation passed in the House in July, this proposal also includes a new oversight provision that ensures that countries receiving US military aid are in compliance with US law and national security policy. While J Street welcomed the provision at the time—seeing it as a possible move towards conditioning aid to Israel—AIPAC was not concerned with the verification process as it “merely codifies the current practice.”

The bill also includes $1.3 billion in military assistance and $125 million in economic assistance to Egypt; however, $300 million is conditioned on “improvement in human rights” and $75 million “cannot be waived unless additional conditions related to arbitrary detention and the release of political prisoners are met.”

This announcement follows earlier reports that the Biden administration is withholding $130 million in military aid to Egypt in order to pressure it to improve its human-rights record.

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