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Intel: US announces $15 million in aid to West Bank, Gaza

Linda Thomas-Greenfield

The United States will provide $15 million in humanitarian assistance to Gaza and the West Bank, in what is part of a larger Biden administration effort to mend frayed relations with the Palestinians. 

The funds provided by the US Agency for International Development will help support Catholic Relief Services’ COVID-19 response, as well as emergency food assistance in the impoverished Palestinian territories. 

“This small step in advancing the well-being of the Palestinian people is fully in keeping with American values,” the State Department said in its announcement Thursday. 

Why it matters: Washington’s relationship with Ramallah is badly strained after four years of almost no contact between the two governments and a slew of Trump administration policies seen as favoring Israel in its decadeslong conflict with the Palestinians. President Donald Trump slashed more than $200 million in aid to the Palestinians in 2018, including $25 million earmarked for East Jerusalem hospitals.

To bolster the Palestinian Authority’s COVID-19 response, the Trump administration announced in April 2020 that it would provide $5 million — just a f fraction of the $75 million in Palestinian economic and humanitarian aid appropriated by Congress for that fiscal year. 

During a meeting of the UN Security Council on Thursday, US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield framed the Biden administration’s $15 million assistance package as one that would “bring more stability and security to both Israelis and Palestinians alike.” 

"That’s consistent with our interests and our values, and it aligns with our efforts to stamp out the pandemic and food insecurity worldwide,” she added.

What’s next: The Biden administration is also expected to resume aid to the United Nations relief agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), which Trump pulled all funding from 2018. The cash-strapped agency, which provides humanitarian assistance to 5.6 million Palestinian refugees and their descendants, says the loss of its biggest donor has had a corrosive impact on its operations and forced cutbacks in health care, schooling and other critical services. 

The administration has also indicated it will work to reopen the Palestine Liberation Organization's mission office in Washington, which Trump shuttered in 2018.  

Know more: In The Takeaway, Andrew Parasiliti examines the administration’s plan for a “reset” with Ramallah. Plus, Elizabeth Hagedorn takes a closer look at how Biden has put development dollars at the center of his foreign policy.