Exclusive: Trump quietly transfers $20M to Palestinian programs
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with Trump envoy Jason Greenblatt - Photo: Reuters
WASHINGTON – The Trump administration has quietly directed an additional $20 million towards projects that would ‘directly benefit’ the Palestinian Authority, Capitol Hill sources told Jewish Insider. “It means that the Trump administration is trying to get money out of the door before Taylor Force (Act) goes into effect,” a Congressional aide explained.
Last month, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the Taylor Force Act, legislation introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) that would cut off all U.S. economic aid that “directly benefits” the P.A. until they cease payments to families of terrorists. With the Senate Appropriations Committee including the Taylor Force Act in its most recent annual Foreign Operations Budget, the bill is almost certain to pass by the end of 2017.
In August, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson withheld $30 million of economic aid from Egypt, citing Cairo’s harsh restrictions on human rights organizations. Congressional staffers asked the administration about the reprogramming of this funding and were told that $20 million of the sum would be spent on West Bank and Gaza programs that would “directly benefit” the P.A.
During the Obama administration’s final hours, the U.S. quietly sent $221 million to projects in the Palestinian territories despite significant Congressional opposition. Representative Kate Granger (R-TX) slammed the Obama White House for the move, even though she acknowledged that none of the money went directly to the P.A.
Jason Greenblatt, the U.S. Middle East envoy, has trumpeted a July water deal signed with the P.A., Israel and Jordan as one of the administration’s top accomplishments to date in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. A Congressional staffer explained that the U.S. assistance to the “Red-Dead” water agreement “directly benefits the PA, and therefore would not be able to continue” once the Taylor Force Act is implemented as advanced out of committee.
In a speech on Monday, Greenblatt emphasized the importance of wastewater projects in the West Bank and Gaza, while he also encouraged international donors to assist the P.A. with its budget difficulties.
Last week, the State Department announced that it “strongly supports the Taylor Force Act, which is a consequence of the Palestinian Authority and Palestine Liberation Organization’s policy of paying terrorists and their families.” The State Department did not immediately respond to Jewish Insider’s request for comment.