| WASHINGTON, March 23
WASHINGTON, March 23 An influential U.S.
Republican lawmaker, Representative Kay Granger, said o n F riday
she was releasing $147 million in U.S. development aid for the
Palestinians that she had blocked since last August.
But it was unclear whether the money could be spent, because
another senior Republican, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, has also had a
"hold" on the funds for months. A spokesman for Ros-Lehtinen
could not be reached for comment.
Both Granger and Ros-Lehtinen barred expenditure of the U.S.
funds last year because they objected to the Palestinian push
for recognition at the United Nations. They argued that the path
to Palestinian statehood was via a peace treaty with Israel.
Granger on Friday said she had decided to release the money
for humanitarian reasons, and to help stability in the
"I have taken a strong position on aid to the PA
(Palestinian Authority) to send a message that seeking statehood
at the United Nations, forming a unity government with Hamas and
walking away from the negotiating table with Israel were not
pathways to peace," Granger said in a statement.
"Right now it is in our interest - and the interest of our
allies in the region - to allow aid to flow to address security
and humanitarian concerns."
Granger chairs the House of Representatives appropriations
subcommittee in charge of foreign aid, while Ros-Lehtinen chairs
the House foreign affairs committee.
Both Granger and Ros-Lehtinen have been pressured by the
Obama administration as well as the international community to
release the development aid, which Congress had appropriated for
fiscal year 2011.
There have been growing warnings, including from the
International Monetary Fund, that the Palestinians are facing a
deepening financial crisis due to a drop in aid from Western
backers and wealthy Gulf states as well as Israeli restrictions
The IMF last week urged donors to meet their aid pledges to
the Palestinian authority in the Israeli-occupied West Bank,
which has a projected 2012 budget deficit of $1.1 billion.
Ros-Lehtinen earlier this week demanded written
justifications for U.S. assistance to the Palestinians from the
U.S. foreign aid agency.
Ros-Lehtinen suggested on Tuesday that she might be able to
go along with funds for water programs, health, and food, but
raised questions about funds for trade, tourism, and road
construction in the Palestinian territories.
The United States has committed over $4 billion in bilateral
assistance to the Palestinians since the mid-1990s, the
Congressional Research Service says.
Since fiscal year 2008 the annual U.S. contribution has
averaged $600 million, RCS says. Usually, this includes about
$200 million in direct budgetary aid and $100 million in
security aid for training Palestinian security forces, in
addition to development aid, the RCS says.
Technically, the Obama administration can override the
objections of individual lawmakers and spent aid money once it
has been appropriated by Congress.
However, successive administrations have generally deferred
to holds on funds by key members of relevant committees.
Congress voted in December to allow aid to the Palestinians
to continue in fiscal 2012 - the current fiscal year - as long
as they are not admitted as a state to any more United Nations
organizations. The Palestinians won admission to UNESCO in
October, a move that prompted the United States to cut off
funding to that agency.