US to restore about $150 million in aid to Palestinians: report

The Biden administration plans to unveil a package of about $150 million in US aid to the Palestinians, restoring part of the assistance that was cut off by then-president Donald Trump, people familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

The aid, mostly to be provided through the United Nations relief agency UNWRA, is expected to be announced by the State Department as soon as Wednesday as part of an effort to repair US ties with the Palestinians that all but collapsed during Trump’s tenure.

Democratic President Joe Biden has made clear he intends to roll back parts of his Republican predecessor’s approach that Palestinians denounced as heavily biased in favour of Israel.

The new administration has previously pledged to resume hundreds of millions of dollars in economic and humanitarian assistance and work toward reopening the Palestinians’ diplomatic mission in Washington.

Biden’s aides have also made clear they want to re-establish the goal of a negotiated two-state solution as a priority in US policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

But they have moved cautiously so far, and any major steps are likely to wait following Israel’s inconclusive March election, which will be followed by Palestinian elections scheduled in coming months.

The Trump administration blocked nearly all aid since it severed ties with the Palestinian Authority in 2018. The move was widely seen as an attempt to force the Palestinians to negotiate with Israel on terms the Palestinian leadership branded as an effort to deny them a viable state.

This included rescinding aid to funding for the United Nations Works and Relief Agency (UNWRA), which provides aid and relief services to around 5.7m registered Palestinian refugees across the Middle East.

The restored funding is expected to mostly be funnelled to UNWRA, while the administration is likely to hold back for now on resuming direct economic assistance to the Palestinian Authority, the sources told Reuters.

The money that will go to UNWRA does not immediately restore contributions to the $365m level that the US gave to the agency in 2017.


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