WASHINGTON, D.C./WEST BANK — On Wednesday, the Biden administration announced it would provide $235 million in U.S. aid to the Palestinians, restarting funding for the United Nations agency supporting refugees and restoring other assistance cut off by former President Trump.
The package, including humanitarian, economic and development assistance, was detailed by Secretary of State Antony Blinken as part of an effort to repair American ties with the Palestinians that all but collapsed during Trump’s tenure.
It marked Democratic President Biden’s most significant move since taking office on Jan. 20 to make good on his promise to roll back some parts of his Republican predecessor’s approach that Palestinians denounced as heavily biased in favor of Israel.
The plan calls for $150 million through the United Nations relief agency UNRWA, $75 million in U.S. economic and development assistance and $10 million for peace-building programs, Blinken said in a statement.
Biden’s aides have also signaled that they want to re-establish the goal of a negotiated two-state solution as a priority in U.S. policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
But any further 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 the 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 Trump cuts included slashing 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
The cuts came after Palestinian leaders decided to boycott the Trump administration’s peace efforts over its decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv, upending decades of American 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.
“The United States is pleased to announce that, working with Congress, we plan to restart U.S. economic, development and humanitarian assistance for the Palestinian people,” Blinken said.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s office welcomed Biden’s commitment to a two-state solution as well as the renewed aid. And Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh wrote on Twitter, “We call upon the American administration to create a new political path that meets the rights and aspirations of the Palestinian people.” But Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to the United States and the United Nations, criticized the renewal of funding to the UNRWA, saying that it allowed anti-Israel incitement and anti-Semitic activity in its facilities.
“We believe that this U.N. agency for so-called refugees should not exist in its current format,” he said in a video posted on Twitter.
He said that in conversations with the State Department he had “expressed my disappointment and objection to the decision to renew UNRWA’s funding” without first ensuring that reforms were carried out.
Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, a close ally of Trump, has previously called for the dismantling of the UNRWA.
Most of the refugees assisted by the UNRWA are descendants of some 700,000 Palestinians who were driven out of their homes or fled fighting in the 1948 war that led to Israel’s creation.
– Reuters, edited for style