State Department Reviews Obama’s Last-Minute $221M Payment to Palestinians

(JTA) — The U.S. State Department is reviewing the Obama administration’s decision to send $221 million to the Palestinian Authority on the morning of Donald Trump’s inauguration.

The State Department said it would look into the payment, which had previously been held up by congressional Republicans, and make adjustments in line with the Trump administration’s priorities, the Associated Press reported.

Former Secretary of State John Kerry formally notified Congress that the State Department would release the money Friday morning, hours before the Trump inauguration began.

At least two Republican lawmakers had held up the money, which was approved in budget years 2015 and 2016, the AP reported, in an act that is not legally binding but is usually respected by the executive branch. The lawmakers identified by the AP are Rep. Ed Royce of California, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; and Rep. Kay Granger of Texas, a member of the House Appropriations Committee and chairwoman of its Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. The hold reportedly was placed over Palestinian attempts to join international organizations.

“I am deeply disappointed that President Obama defied congressional oversight and released $221 million to the Palestinian territories,” Granger said in a statement posted on her congressional website.

“I worked to make sure that no American taxpayer dollars would fund the Palestinian Authority unless very strict conditions were met. While none of these funds will go to the Palestinian Authority because of those conditions, they will go to programs in the Palestinian territories that were still under review by Congress. The Obama Administration’s decision to release these funds was inappropriate.”

The funds are slated for use for humanitarian aid in the West Bank and Gaza, to support political and security reforms, and to help prepare for good governance and the rule of law in a future Palestinian state, according to the State Department’s notification sent to Congress, the AP reported.

In 2016, the United States gave $557 million in assistance to the Palestinian Authority, according to USAID. Israel was the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid last year, receiving $3.1 billion.

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