Citing pandemic, Trump administration to release $5 million to Palestinians


WASHINGTON (JTA) — Citing needs created by the coronavirus pandemic, David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, said the Trump administration would release $5 million to the Palestinians.

The money apparently will come from international disaster relief and not from the $75 million in assistance to the Palestinians allocated last year by Congress. The Trump administration, which has suspended virtually all assistance to the Palestinians, has yet to release that aid.

“I’m very pleased the USA is providing $5 million for Palestinian hospitals and households to meet immediate, life-saving needs in combating COVID-19,” Friedman said Thursday on Twitter. “The USA, as the world’s top humanitarian aid donor, is committed to assisting the Palestinian people, and others worldwide, in this crisis.”

Congress’ approval last year of the $75 million was seen as a signal of bipartisan dissatisfaction with the Trump administration’s total squeeze on funding for the Palestinians. A peace plan released earlier this year, spearheaded by President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and Friedman, promises stepped-up international assistance to the Palestinians in exchange for a deal that allows Israel to annex parts of the West Bank.

Palestinians have said the deal is a non-starter. Relations between the Palestinians and the Trump administration broke down in December 2017, when Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

It’s not clear how the money will reach the Palestinians. Any U.S. aid to the Palestinians must breach a network of bans instituted by recent laws passed by Congress and by Trump’s orders.

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