The United States Congress has blocked nearly $200 million in aid for the Palestinians in response to President Mahmoud Abbas’ request to join the UN, a British newspaper report said Saturday.
The Independent called the move the most tangible sign yet of the seriousness of US threats to halt funding in the coming year if Abbas continues with his actions at the UN.
The unpublicized block has been in force since August and was imposed in response to the then-planned UN recognition bid and to earlier reconciliation efforts between Fatah and Hamas, the newspaper said.
The decision was strongly condemned by the Palestinian Authority, the daily reported. The cutoff threatens projects such as food aid, health care, and support for efforts to build a functioning state, it said.
“This is not constructive at all. Such moves are unjustified,” said PA spokesman Ghassan Khatib.
“These are mainly humanitarian and development projects — it is another kind of collective punishment which is going to harm the needs of the public without making any positive contribution.”
Khatib added that the Palestinian Authority had not done anything wrong or illegal and that, “it is ironic to be punished for going to the United Nations,” the newspaper reported.
In an editorial, the daily also denounced the move, which is opposed by the Obama administration as well as Israeli officials who depend on the PA security forces to maintain order in the West Bank.
“Anything which stirs up frustrations by undermining public services or, worse, which directly jeopardises the funding of the security services is playing with fire. And not just for the Palestinians,” the editorial said.
“Any increase in lawlessness in the West Bank has an immediate impact on Israel.”
Meanwhile at the UN, Palestinian and American officials are waging a diplomatic tug-of-war for the votes of a handful of countries as Palestine’s application for membership stalls in the Security Council.
Officials and experts say the US is using diplomatic pressure to convince Security Council member states to vote no or abstain, with the aim of preventing the PLO from securing a majority in the 15-member council.
The United States has threatened to veto the application out of support for Israel, but it would not have to exercise this option if the PLO fails to win the backing of a majority.