Palestinians claim they have already gotten Obama’s farewell gift

by WorldTribune Staff, January 27, 2017

The Palestinian Authority (PA) says it has received $221 million in aid from the U.S. authorized by Barack Obama in the last hours of his presidency despite the Trump administration’s claim that it had frozen the transfer of the funds.

“We have already received the last sum assigned by Obama’s administration. They have transferred this money,” Husam Zomlot, a strategic affairs adviser to PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas, told the Russian RIA Novosti news agency.

Former President Barack Obama with PA leader Mahmoud Abbas

Related: Trump freezes Obama’s last-minute $221 million gift to Palestinians, Jan. 26, 2017

When asked to clarify whether he was speaking about the $221 million payment, he answered in the affirmative, adding that the decision was made in Washington “several weeks ago.”

The Associated Press reported earlier this week that Obama had defied Republican opposition and quietly released the money to the PA just before Donald Trump was sworn in.

The State Department later said it was reviewing the last-minute decision of the Obama administration, but Zomlot’s statement suggests it is too late for that, Israel’s Arutz Sheva reported on Jan. 27.

Zomlot also told RIA Novosti that the PA “hope[s] that Trump’s administration will carry on with the policy [towards the PA] that their predecessors had. Once they announce a new position [on the matter], we will react,” he added.

In recent years, Washington has several times frozen – then subsequently released – some of the aid it provides to the PA.

In September 2011, a $192 million aid package was frozen by Congress after the PA submitted a failed unilateral bid for United Nations membership.

Members of Congress later released $40 million in economic and humanitarian funding for the PA, saying it is “vital to establishing and strengthening the foundations necessary for a future Palestinian state.”

In April 2012, Obama bypassed a congressional block and signed a waiver declaring that aid to the PA is “important to the security interests of the United States.”

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