US to restore more than $200m in aid to Palestinians

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The Biden administration plans to provide at least $235 million in US aid to the Palestinians, restarting funding for the United Nations agency supporting refugees and restoring other assistance cut off by then-President Donald Trump, people familiar with the matter said.

The package, including humanitarian, economic and security aid, is expected to be announced by the State Department later on Wednesday as part of an effort to repair US ties with the Palestinians that all but collapsed during Trump’s tenure.

It will mark Democratic President Joe Biden’s most significant move since taking office on Jan. 20 to make good on his promise to roll back some components of his Republican predecessor’s approach that Palestinians denounced as heavily biased in favour of Israel, reports Reuters.

The plan calls for $150 million through the United Nations relief agency UNRWA, $75 million in US economic support and $10 million in development funding, according to a notice emailed by the administration to congressional offices.

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

Biden’s aides have also signaled that 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 for the dust to clear after Israel’s inconclusive March election, which will be followed by Palestinian elections scheduled in coming months.

The Trump administration blocked nearly all aid after 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.

The cuts came after Palestinian leaders decided to boycott the Trump administration’s peace efforts over its decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the US embassy there from Tel Aviv, upending decades of US policy.

This included rescinding funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which provides aid and relief services to around 5.7 million registered Palestinian refugees in the occupied West Bank, Gaza Strip and across the Middle East.❐

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