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Trump’s State Department Freezes Obama’s $221 Million Payout to Palestinians

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The State Department has halted hundreds of millions of dollars in assets that the Obama administration previously authorized for the Palestinians in President Obama’s final days in office.

The State Department is currently examining the transfer of $221 million intended for Ramallah. Former Secretary of State John Kerry ordered the money to be shipped to Israel’s eternal rival just hours before January 20. A source in Palestine told the Times of Israel that the Palestine Authority has already received $250 million from the US government in 2016.

The funds were set to be funneled through the US Agency for International Development, a key strategic arm of the US government used for promoting the country’s interests abroad. The notification sent to Congress by Kerry stated that the money was to be used for good governance in a future Palestinian state, humanitarian purposes in the West Bank and Gaza, political and economic security, and to promote the rule of law. The US Congress, led by Paul Ryan in the House and Mitch McConnell in the Senate, authorized the Obama administration to send these funds in 2015 and 2016. Two representatives in the House requested that the administration put a hold on the funds. The executive branch usually respects such holds as a matter of formality but is not obligated to do so.

Israeli national flag flying next to an Israeli building site of new housing units in the Jewish settlement of Shilo in the occupied Palestinian West Bank. (File) - Sputnik International
UN Resolution on Israeli Settlements 'Terrible Mistake' - US Ambassador Nominee

New US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s job got a bit more difficult in recent days, as the four senior-most state department officials tendered their resignation notices, including Patrick Kennedy, former undersecretary of management, who had worked there nine years.

Pro-Israel advocates are poised to "infest" the Trump administration, according to Columbia University Professor Rashid Khalidi, a Palestinian-American expert. "They think that whatever they want and whatever cockamie schemes they can cook up can be substituted for reality," Khalidi said in an interview with Chicago’s WBEZ 91.5 public radio station.

"They have a vision whereby there is no such thing as the Palestinians," Khalidid added.

In 2014, the State Department noted that unemployment reached 23.4 percent in Palestinian territories, a figure comparable to US unemployment during the Great Depression. "Future economic growth depends on continued easing of Israeli movement and access restrictions," the document added. Youth in the area have been disproportionately impacted by the difficult economic situation, with unemployment for individuals aged 20-24 measuring some 41 percent. 

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