RAMALLAH, October 1 (JMCC) - The United States Congress has blocked the allocation of nearly $200 million in funding for Palestinians and is threatening to freeze more programs, reports the Independent
Legislators have been refusing to allocate the funds since mid-August, a response to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
' request for state membership at the United Nations. The US and Israel oppose the move, saying that statehood can only come through bilateral negotiations.
USAID has been unable to allocate the funds, designated for a wide range of humanitarian, educational and state capacity building projects, pending negotiations between the US government and Congressional leaders aimed at lifting the freeze. Ghassan Khatib, chief spokesman for the Palestinian Authority, said yesterday: This is not constructive at all. Such moves are unjustified. These are mainly humanitarian and development projects-it is another kind of collective punishment which is going to harm the needs of the public without making any positive contribution.
He added that the Palestinian Authority had not done anything wrong or illegal and that, it is ironic to be punished for going to the United Nations.
The present block is threatening to delay the start of four new USAID funded projects, covering teacher-training, large-scale road and water infrastructure developments and an Enterprise Development programme designed to improve the competitiveness and capacity of the Palestinian private sector.
A series of existing projects are also at immediate risk unless the funding is unlocked in continuing negotiations between Congressional leaders and the Obama administration.
They include the purchase of supplies by the UN's World Food Programme for food distribution to impoverished Palestinian families in early 2012, health service reform, training and equipment for the Holy Family hospital in Bethlehem, a pre-school Sesame Street workshop, and a Palestinian Authority political programme for developing the functions of ministers.
In the months ahead, if the funding is not restored, a wide range of other projects are at risk. They include the Youth Entrepreneurship Development programme aimed at enhancing the skills of young unemployed people, an Independent Media programme for fostering independent electronic media outlets, a trade facilitation programme designed to improve cargo movement in the West Bank and Gaza, a water supply and sanitation programme, and a Community Assistance programme which is the main USAID funded aid project in Gaza.
The article goes on to say that Israel opposes the freezing of $100 million in US aid allocated for supporting Palestinian security agencies.