President Bush waived congressional restrictions to directly transfer $150 million to the Palestinian Authority.
The transfer ordered Friday is part of a package of more than $500 million in Palestinian assistance earmarked for use this year. Most of the money is project based and to be funneled through the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency and nongovernmental organizations.
Such transfers are subject to relatively light congressional oversight. However, Congress in recent years has banned direct transfers of cash because of fears that the money could end up in terrorist hands and because of concerns about P.A. corruption. Much of the pro-Israel community also strongly opposes direct transfers.
The Bush administration says the Palestinian Authority needs the cash to leverage loans at a time that it is confronting extremists and pursuing peace talks with Israel.
A U.S. official told the JTA that the assistance was “critical” and added that it will “help avert a serious and immediate financial crisis for the P.A., ensure its continued operation, and further the United States’ longstanding and bipartisan goal of a just and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”