View Full Version : U.S. Asks Palestinians To Return $50M In Aid

02-17-2006, 07:47 PM
US asks Palestinians to return aid


(Gold9472: And if they don't give it back?)

By Sue Pleming
Fri Feb 17, 2006 4:50 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has asked the Palestinian Authority to return $50 million in U.S. aid because Washington does not want a Hamas-led government to have the funds, the State Department said on Friday.

The money was demanded as part of a full review of all U.S. aid for the Palestinians that began soon after the militant group Hamas' surprise victory in elections last month. A Hamas-led parliament was set to be sworn in on Saturday but it could take several weeks for a Cabinet to be formed.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the caretaker government of President Mahmoud Abbas agreed to return the money, given last year for infrastructure projects after Israel's withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the West Bank.

"In the interests of seeing that these funds not potentially make their way into the coffers of a future Palestinian government (made up of Hamas) ... we have asked for it to be returned and the Palestinian Authority has agreed," McCormack told reporters.

A Palestinian official confirmed Washington had asked for $50 million in aid to be returned. "The Palestinian Authority promised to comply," the official said.

Over the past decade, the United States has given about $1.5 billion in aid to the Palestinians, mostly through aid groups.

McCormack reiterated U.S. policy that aid could not go to Hamas, which is classified as a terrorist group, but he said the United States was looking at ways of ensuring humanitarian assistance could reach the Palestinians.

For a Hamas government to get direct aid, it would have to renounce violence, recognize Israel, disarm militias and agree to past Israeli-Palestinian agreements.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will be visiting Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates next week to discuss, among other issues, how to deal with Hamas and to convince those nations not to fill any funding gap.

The mediating powers in the Middle East -- the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia -- issued a statement last month in which they said Hamas must reject violence and recognize Israel or risk losing aid.

Several aid groups want the U.S. government to grant a waiver for humanitarian assistance to enable them to communicate with a new Palestinian government.

Elizabeth Sime, country director for CARE's program in the West Bank and Gaza, said world donors must understand that getting aid to the Palestinians required cooperation at least "on a technical level" with the Palestinian Authority.

McCormack told Reuters it was premature to talk about a waiver, adding it would be a few weeks before the review was completed.

Peter Gubser, president of American Near East Refugee Aid, said he feared his charity's school program might be affected by an aid cut because the group had to deal with Palestinian ministries.

Like many others, his group was looking at how to shift aid in a way that complied with U.S. law. A school program that would require dealings with the Palestinian Authority may be curbed and so his group might, for example, put more funds in their milk program for Palestinian preschoolers.

InterAction, an umbrella group representing about 160 aid groups, said there was concern any sharp cut in foreign assistance would create more unrest and hurt the weakest.

The group's president, Mohammad Akhter, said it was possible to work with civil society groups not linked in any way to Hamas. He pointed out the United States had given food aid to the North Koreans even though it opposed their polices.

02-17-2006, 09:29 PM
for fucks sake. like a child! a big effing baby!

course, they want hamas to fail. but do they think the palestinians are thick? they think the palestinians don't see hamas hamas being actively undermined? they think the people are gonna say "oh gee, i guess uncey sam don't like hamas none, we should go back to fatah like good little peasants!" or will they say 'hey, i guess the yankees aren't actually all that interested in democracy afterall... we're truly shocked."

02-17-2006, 09:46 PM
Hello, Red Cross. Yeah, I know I gave all that money for Katrina aid, but I'd like to have it back now. I understand that some of those people might have used it to pay strippers.

02-18-2006, 11:09 AM
Good one!

02-18-2006, 11:10 AM
Or, Hello, Red Cross. Yeah, I know I gave all that money for Katrina aid, but I'd like to have it back now. I understand that instead of feeding hungry people with it, you spent it on some fucking PR campaign somewhere!

02-19-2006, 02:00 AM
Cutting Off U.S. Aid to Palestinians Not Easy
The funding jeopardized by Hamas' electoral victory supports a variety of programs, the loss of which could do more harm than good.


By Ken Ellingwood, Times Staff Writer

BETHLEHEM, West Bank — The sawdust-carpeted shed where Bassam Zablah turns olive wood into rosary beads seems an unlikely destination for American largess.

Zablah and his wife, Samar, regularly borrow a few hundred dollars at a time from a Palestinian nonprofit organization that receives money from the U.S. government. The loans help the couple pay for more wood while they wait for customers to buy the beads.

But uncertainty over continued U.S. aid to the Palestinians after Hamas' electoral victory last month has thrown into question the form that American-funded assistance will take in the future. The U.S. pays for a variety of aid, much of it delivered through modest programs such as the one that helps the Zablahs keep their tiny business afloat. Palestinian officials are eager to see that assistance continue.

Amid warnings by the Bush administration that the Hamas win could threaten the flow of aid, American officials here are reviewing projects throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which last year received $275 million from the U.S. Agency for International Development. That included $50 million in direct aid, which the U.S. has now asked the Palestinian Authority to return.

Some construction and planning efforts have been halted, Palestinian officials say, and the fate of other U.S. assistance hangs in the balance. U.S. officials said programs for which money was already committed would go on.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said decisions about future aid will come after the new government takes shape. The Palestinian parliament is to convene today, and formal negotiations are expected to begin then over the makeup of the government.

"We simply don't know yet what programs we are going to be working on," said Anna-Maija Litvak, spokeswoman for the USAID office in Tel Aviv, which oversees assistance in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. "At this point, we are kind of reevaluating all of our projects."

The surprise election victory by Hamas, which is officially committed to Israel's destruction and classified by the U.S. government as a terrorist group, has prompted bills in Congress that would limit aid to the Palestinians unless the Islamic group disarms, renounces violence and recognizes Israel and previous agreements.

The Bush administration already has said it will refuse to deal with Hamas unless the group changes its ways, and European nations have warned that tens of millions of dollars in aid from them also could be in jeopardy. Israel has threatened to withhold tax revenue — around $50 million monthly — that it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority under a long-standing economic agreement.

"It's a mistake to fund a terrorist organization," said U.S. Rep. Vito J. Fossella (R-N.Y.), who has sponsored legislation calling for an aid cutoff. "Until and unless the group renounces … and reverses its views, we shouldn't spend one American taxpayer dollar supporting it."

Cuts in funding would aggravate the dire financial straits faced by the Palestinian Authority, which gets about $1 billion yearly in foreign aid from various sources, a sum that is equal to nearly half its budget. For several months, the Palestinian government has been unable to meet its $116-million monthly payroll.

But shutting off U.S. aid is more complicated than turning off a spigot, and has some limitations as a carrot or stick of American policy. One reason is that U.S. assistance almost never goes directly to the Palestinian Authority, the governing structure that Hamas is about to join. Direct aid to the Palestinian Authority was barred by U.S. law in 1997 to safeguard against it being siphoned off by corrupt leaders.

Instead, with rare exceptions, American aid is provided indirectly through contractors and nonprofit groups that carry out a variety of projects, from building sewers and roads to mentoring Palestinian youths and fostering democratic institutions.

In the Bethlehem area, for example, the U.S. government has spent $30 million since 2000 to improve the water supply by adding pumps, reservoirs and wells. USAID announced an additional $24.4 million last fall for a five-year project aimed at teaching Palestinian young people to be leaders and productive members of society.

Palestinian officials say shutting off funding for these kinds of programs would do more harm than good by reducing resources for thousands of ordinary Palestinians.

"Stopping aid, even for ongoing projects, is not a constructive idea from a development and planning point of view. It's also not wise from a political point of view," said Ghassan Khatib, the outgoing Palestinian planning minister. "These American measures are affecting the wrong targets."

Among the programs supported by the U.S. government is the one that helps the Zablah family in Bethlehem: Palestine for Credit & Development, which provides loans of $300 to $15,000 to entrepreneurs, primarily women. The group, launched by Save the Children and known by its Arabic acronym FATEN, has lent about $40 million to more than 70,000 clients since 1995. U.S. officials consider the program a success, noting that it has helped impoverished Palestinian women open beauty parlors and buy livestock.

FATEN has received about $6 million from the U.S. government and is scheduled to get $2 million this year, said operations manager Fawz Abuhijleh. She said the group had built up enough financial resources to survive without the additional U.S. aid, and U.S. officials said assistance for the program was already scheduled to end later this year. They said the full allotment for the program would not be affected by the current review.

Zablah, 39, has followed news of the threatened cuts in U.S. assistance with dismay. He said he did not vote for Hamas and worried that a cut in aid might curb the amount available for loans.

"How can I buy wood? How can I continue?" he said at the couple's cramped home, perched above a trash-strewn ravine. "It is not fair at all."

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said last week that the U.S. government was maintaining projects already underway, but was reviewing new or proposed efforts.

Still, many projects have nothing to do with the Palestinian government, and officials say at least some assistance will continue flowing even after Hamas takes office.

"Western governments and the American government have no plans to end assistance to the Palestinian people," said a Western diplomat who declined to be identified. "Every government has made it clear that we plan to work with the Palestinian people. How that's going to happen is somewhat up in the air."

Larry Garber, who directed USAID operations for the West Bank and Gaza Strip from 1999 to 2004, said the odds of a halt in funding for work classified as humanitarian, such as food and medical care, were remote. Other kinds of help, such as donating desks and computers and providing technical support for Palestinian ministries, would be relatively easy to stop, said Garber, now executive director of the New Israel Fund in Washington.

But the bulk of U.S. government-supported efforts, from building infrastructure to teaching democracy, fall into a third category that will probably represent the most challenging decisions for policymakers.

"The broader question they're going to have to answer is what do they want to see happen, what kind of assistance do we want to maintain?" Garber said.

02-19-2006, 01:37 PM
the loss of which could do more harm than good

Which some might, is the whole point. Fuck Hamas' governership up so the people will beg for the return of Fatah. Unfortunately (for the imperialists and zionists), Palestinians aren't stupid.