Trump freezes Obama’s last-minute $221 million gift to Palestinians

by WorldTribune Staff, January 26, 2017

A payment of $221 million to the Palestinian Authority (PA) that was authorized in the final hours of Barack Obama’s presidency has been frozen by the Trump administration.

U.S. officials informed PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah on Jan. 24 that the funds were not expected to be handed over in the immediate future, a senior Palestinian source told The Times of Israel.

Former President Barack Obama with PA leader Mahmoud Abbas in 2013. /AP

The State Department said it was reviewing the Jan. 20 decision by the Obama administration to send the funds to the Palestinians despite objections to the transfer by congressional Republicans.

Just hours before President Donald Trump took the oath of office, then-Secretary of State John Kerry formally notified Congress that State would release the $221 million to the PA.

Even without the $221 million, the PA received $250 million from the U.S. government in 2016, the source noted.

Two GOP lawmakers — Rep. Ed Royce of California, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Rep. Kay Granger of Texas, who sits on the House Appropriations Committee — had placed holds on PA funding in 2015 and 2016 over moves the PA had taken to seek membership in international organizations. Congressional holds are generally respected by the executive branch but are not legally binding after funds have been allocated.

Granger released a statement on Jan. 24 saying, “I am deeply disappointed that President Obama defied congressional oversight and released $221 million to the Palestinian territories.”

She added: “I worked to make sure that no American taxpayer dollars would fund the Palestinian Authority unless very strict conditions were met. While none of these funds will go to the Palestinian Authority because of those conditions, they will go to programs in the Palestinian territories that were still under review by Congress. The Obama administration’s decision to release these funds was inappropriate.”