Biden restores humanitarian aid to Palestinians cut off by Trump

The US is restoring economic and humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians that was cut off under former president Donald Trump, announcing a total of $235m in funding.

President Joe Biden’s administration will again support the international body caring for Palestinian refugees with a contribution of $150m to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

In addition, $75m in economic and development assistance will be provided for the West Bank and Gaza and a further $10m for peacebuilding efforts through the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

“US foreign assistance for the Palestinian people serves important US interests and values. It provides critical relief to those in great need, fosters economic development, and supports Israeli-Palestinian understanding, security coordination, and stability,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a statement on Wednesday.

Vital security assistance programmes will also resume.  All assistance will be provided consistent with US law.

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The economic assistance includes support for small and medium enterprises’ recovery from the effects of Covid-19; support for needy households to access basic human needs, such as food and clean water; and assistance for Palestinian civil society.

A portion of this funding will support the East Jerusalem Hospital Network, as it continues to provide necessary and life-saving treatments to the Palestinian people.

The funding is in addition to $15m in pandemic humanitarian assistance announced in March amid criticism that Israel, one of the leading countries in the world in vaccinating its own people, has not taken similar initiatives in territories under its occupation.

Israel argues that vaccination is the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority, the AFP reports.

UNRWA previously counted on the US as its top donor but has struggled with a shortfall in funding since the Trump administration withdrew funds in 2018.

The agency says that since that time its funding needs have only risen due to Covid and the hardships facing Palestinians living in war-torn-Syria, and neighbouring Lebanon and Jordan, as well as in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

While the Biden administration has made moves to restore relations and support for the Palestinians, no new initiatives have been made towards resolving the conflict with Israel.

However, the US believes that advancing prosperity and security for both nations is a tangible step towards a negotiated two-state solution.

With reporting from the AFP

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