WASHINGTON - Lawmakers have freed up a little more than 20 percent of $187 million in U.S. assistance to the Palestinians that had been frozen over the Palestinian bid for U.N. membership.
Members of Congress have made available $40 million in economic and humanitarian funding for the Palestinians, the State Department said Wednesday. The money is administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development and "has been vital to establishing and strengthening the foundations necessary for a future Palestinian state," the department said.
The Obama administration had been urging lawmakers, with Israel's backing, to release the money as it contributes to Palestinian stability and Israeli security. "It is in the interest of the Palestinians, Israel and the United States, to ensure these efforts continue," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said. "They help to build a more democratic, stable, and secure region."
The administration is pressing Congress to release the remaining $147 million that comes from the last budget cycle in which aid to the Palestinians was to total $545.7 million. New funding for the Palestinians will be subject to additional scrutiny and can be blocked if they win full admission to the United Nations before a peace deal with Israel is agreed.
The administration has asked Congress for $513.4 million in aid for the Palestinians in fiscal year 2012.