WASHINGTON (JTA) — U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is holding back nearly $200 million in humanitarian aid to the Palestinians.
Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) is keeping her House of Representatives committee from considering approval of $192 million in humanitarian program assistance, two Capitol Hill sources said.
The money is separate from assistance to the Palestinian Authority, $200 million of which has already been distributed, and instead is earmarked for nongovernmental groups.
Such holds on NGO money have been held in the past pending oversight to show that the NGOs are not working with terrorist groups. Ros-Lehtinen in recent weeks has expressed concern that a tentative agreement to unite the Palestinian Authority with Hamas is already in effect. Hamas is the U.S.-designated terrorist group that controls the Gaza Strip.
The Americans for Peace Now website is reporting that other House Republicans also are holding the money, and that Republicans in the House and Senate are holding $150 million in security assistance to the Palestinian Authority.
Republicans and Democrats have warned that such money may be withheld if the Palestinians do not pull back from their attempt to gain statehood recognition through the United Nations and absent peace talks with Israel.
The Arab League on Sunday called on the Arab states in the region to replace that missing aid with their own donations.
"The Arabs will assist the Palestinian Authority," Arab League head Nabil al-Arabi said Sunday in Cairo after a meeting with chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat. "This will be the strongest answer" to the U.S. cuts.
Erekat said that "The Palestinian people refuse to allow economic aid to become an instrument of blackmail regarding its rights to membership of the United Nations."
The U.N.’s Security Council is now considering the PA’s statehood bid, which the United States has said it will veto.