Waiver Expected on P.A. Aid

By Ori Nir

Published April 08, 2005, issue of April 08, 2005.

WASHINGTON — Just weeks after the House of Representatives passed a bill barring any direct financial aid to the Palestinian Authority, the Senate is expected to pass a version giving the president the right to waive the controversial restriction.

Sources intimately familiar with the legislative process on Capitol Hill said that House and Senate leaders already have agreed that the presidential waiver will be included in the final form of the bill, which calls for $200 million in aid to be funneled through nongovernmental organizations in order to fund development projects in the West Bank and Gaza. Under the current law — a supplemental funding bill ensuring that the law governing routine foreign aid is still intact — the president has used his waiver authority twice to grant cash aid directly to the P.A.

The special P.A. aid is folded into the emergency funding bill that the House passed last month to supply supplemental funds for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many House members, including several Jewish Democrats, strongly opposed direct aid. Some opposed any aid to the Palestinians at all. With the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the pro-Israel lobby, playing a lead role, the House adopted compromise language that made the funds available but prohibited the president from using his discretion to supply some of the aid in direct cash grants to the P.A.

Foreign policy experts, some of America’s international allies and even some voices in the American Jewish community criticized the House, arguing that the prohibition jeopardized the administration’s goal of strengthening Mahmoud Abbas, the newly elected president of the P.A.

Now the Senate is preparing its version of the bill, which drops the prohibition on a presidential waiver.

The new language was expected to be approved Wednesday by the Senate Appropriations Committee and sent to the floor for a vote next week.



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