US Assistance Programs Continue: No Offices Closed or Personnel Let Off

RAMALLAH, January 26, 2015 (WAFA) – Contrary to news circulating on local news websites, the United States assistance for programs related to the Local Governance and Public Works Ministries hasn’t been suspended and no West Bank and Gaza Strip’s personnel were let off.

Consulate General of the United States of America spokesperson Leslie Ordeman told WAFA that despite news saying the US has decided to stop funding several projects in the occupied Palestinian Territories (oPT), there has been no policy decision in terms of ending any support or targeting any ministries.

Ordeman confirmed “US assistance to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza has not been suspended. Our assistance programs continue.”

Text of House Amendment to the Senate states that “none of the funds appropriated under the heading ‘‘Economic Support Fund’’ may be made available for assistance for the Palestinian Authority, if the Palestinians obtain the same standing as member states or full membership as a state in the United Nations or any specialized agency thereof outside an agreement negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians.”

In particular, the text states that should the Palestinians “initiate an International Criminal Court [ICC] judicially authorized investigation, or actively support such an investigation, that subjects Israeli nationals to an investigation for alleged crimes against Palestinians.”

The law stipulates that if the Palestinians file lawsuits against Israeli nationals, the US funding shall be suspended. The condition in that article has not been met as the ICC is merely opening a preliminary inquiry into possible war crimes and Palestine is yet to be formally an ICC member on April 1; following the legal period set by the ICC after which a country can become a state party at the ICC.

Ordeman denied reports saying that USAID offices have been closed saying that it doesn’t have any offices in Ramallah to close. “USAID West Bank and Gaza mission is not closing its office. No USAID personnel had been terminated.”

However, He reiterated that the US continually evaluates its assistance programs to ensure that it supports US policy.

International news outlets reported on senator Lindsey Graham saying that an existing US legislation ‘would cut off aid to the Palestinians if they filed a complaint’ against Israel on potential war crimes.

Reuters quoted Graham saying, “We will push back strongly to register our displeasure. It is already part of our law that would require us to stop funding if [Palestinians] actually bring a case.”

Earlier this month Republican Senator Rand Paul introduced a Congressional bill that would immediately halt US aid to PA until it halt efforts to join the ICC to pursue war-crimes charges against ‘Israel’.

He said, “We are currently sending roughly $400 million of US taxpayer dollars to the [PA]. Certainly, groups that threaten ‘Israel’ cannot be allies of the US.”

Such a move would affect PA’s budget especially that since its creation in the 1990s, the US has given the PA about $5 billion in aid, according to a Congressional Research Service report.

Israel on the other hand, has frozen the transfer of about $125 million in tax revenues it collects on behalf of PA, leaving thousands of civil servants waiting for 40% of their wages after PA borrowed from banks to meet its obligations and pay 60% of their salaries.