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U.S. releases $40 million to PA

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The United States transferred $40 million in foreign assistance to the Palestinians.  

The Associated Press reported Thursday that congressional lawmakers released the funds, which amount to 20 percent of the $187 million in foreign assistance from fiscal year 2011 that was held up by Congress in response to the Palestinians’ actions at the United Nations.  

The assistance that the U.S. released is  for humanitarian and economic purposes and not for security assistance.

The release of the 2011 funds comes after an omnibus 2012 appropriations package passed by Congress earlier this month included restrictions that would limit any assistance to the Palestinians if they continued with their efforts to achieve member status at the United Nations.  

During yesterday’s State Department briefing, spokesperson Victoria Nuland emphasized that it was not in the interest of the United States to withhold assistance to the Palestinians. 

“We don’t think it’s in U.S. national interest to keep this money frozen. So from that perspective, we’re gratified that 40 million has now been released,” Nuland said. 

A senior Republican Hill staffer noted that this could be a good way to test the Palestinian Authority without putting U.S. taxpayers at too much risk. 

The staffer said "this is a smart move by the appropriators to put [Mahmoud] Abbas to the test without risking too much taxpayer money. Now that we have built-in legal conditions tying future Palestinian aid to issues like statehood, UN agency membership and a unity government with Hamas, the Congress is making the first move for 2012 – releasing a little bit of money to the PA in good faith. If the Palestinians act responsibly and comply with US law, they’ll get another tranche. If they don’t, especially in these times of great austerity, the American people will understand if we turn the spigot back off."

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