UPDATE 2 — 1/27, 9:53 a.m. EST: According to a Palestinian adviser to President Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority has received the $221 million in aid authorized by former President Obama on his last day in the Oval Office.
Husam Zomlot went on to say that the decision to release funds from the U.S. Agency for International Development to PA was made by the Obama administration “several weeks ago.”
UPDATE — 1/26, 11:15 a.m. EST: U.S. officials have informed the Palestinian Authority (PA) the $221 million in funds authorized for transfer to the PA by former President Barack Obama would remain frozen and will be subject to a State Department review.
According to The Times of Israel, State Department officials informed PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah the funds would not be transferred and would not to be handed over in the near future.
In one of his final acts as president, Barack Obama released $221 million in funds slated for the Palestinian Authority (PA) in open defiance of GOP opposition.
Mr. Obama had released $192 million in 2012 over the objections of congressional Republicans in response to the PA’s unilateral diplomatic efforts for international recognition.
Following a State Department aide informing members of Congress of the White House’s intent on Thursday, State formally advised the whole of Congress of Mr. Obama’s decision to release the funds scheduled for transfer to the PA in a letter dated Friday, January 20.
According to sources, the funds are marked for political reform, governance, humanitarian purposes, climate change and an assortment of UN-sponsored programs.
Congress approved the assistance in fiscal 2015 and 2016; however, two members of the House, Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Kay Granger (R-Texas) objected to its disbursement and placed holds on the funds.
Royce, the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Granger, member of the House Appropriations Committee, blocked the transfer of the aid package in response to the PA’s repeated attempts to seek legitimacy through membership to international organizations, namely the United Nations.
Although congressional holds are scrupulously observed by the White House, they are not compulsory once aid has been approved.
The gesture to send the controversial funds follows an unpopular decision by Mr. Obama to abstain from United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 2334 in December, which condemned Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The UNSC measure declared the settlements to be illegal and in “flagrant” violation of international law.
The refusal to veto the measure enraged Republicans in Congress and angered Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Republicans have repeatedly called for funding to the PA to be blocked over concern its use is to assist the families of terrorists imprisoned in Israel.
[AP] [RT News] [Photo courtesy Getty Images via BBC]