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Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday said that the Biden administration would seek an additional $75 million in assistance for the Palestinians during a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Blinken met with Abbas in the West Bank hours after he held talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, in which he reaffirmed the US commitment to Israeli security.
During his meeting with Abbas in Ramallah, Blinken said he told Netanyahu that the US would reopen its consulate in Jerusalem to “engage the Palestinian people” and said the Biden administration will work with the United Nations, international partners and the “government of Israel” to “assist in the relief and recovery efforts in Gaza.”
Blinken said he informed both Abbas and Netanyahu that the US will seek an additional $75 million from Congress for the Palestinians.
He said the US would also provide $5.5 in immediate disaster aid to Gaza and slightly more than $32 million in additional humanitarian assistance.
“In total, we are in the process of providing more than $360 million of urgent support for the Palestinian people, and across these efforts, we will work with partners to ensure that Hamas does not benefit from these reconstruction efforts,” Blinken said.
“Asking the international community, asking all of us to help rebuild Gaza only makes sense if there is confidence that what is rebuilt is not lost again because Hamas decides to launch more rocket attacks in the future. So this is vitally important,” he said.
The Biden administration told Congress in April that it would provide $75 million in aid to the Palestinians, reversing former President Donald Trump’s foreign policy that cut of assistance after breaking ties with the Palestinian Authority in 2018,
Blinken is visiting the Middle East until Thursday to bolster the cease-fire brokered by the Egyptians last week that halted 11 days of fighting between the Israelis and Hamas.
The US’ commitment to aid to the Palestinians comes a day after progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said she welcomed the truce that brought a halt to the fighting but said it failed to address the “dehumanizing conditions” the Palestinians have to live under.
“The development of a cease-fire is a welcome development. It’s an important development but it’s not enough because it does not address the actual ongoing dehumanizing conditions that are leading or rather contributing to the outbreak of violence,” the New York Democrat said Monday night at a town hall in the Bronx.
“We must continue to center the protection of human rights, the human rights of Palestinians and Israelis alike … But we must also acknowledge the asymmetry in the situation and acknowledge the vulnerable that has played in the last several weeks of this crisis,” she said.
Blinken assured Netanyahu that the US would work with international partners to ensure that the money given to the Palestinians doesn’t wind up in the hands of Hamas militants who would buy more weapons to attack Israel.
”We’ll work with our partners, closely with all to ensure that Hamas does not benefit from the reconstruction assistance,” the US’ top diplomat said.
He went on to say that the additional funding for the Palestinians may actually work to undermine Hamas.
“Hamas thrives, unfortunately, on despair, on misery, on desperation, on a lack of opportunity,” he said, according to the Times of Israel.
“What reconstruction and relief need to do is not just answer the immediate needs — and those needs are significant and they’re urgent, whether it’s water, whether it’s sanitation, whether it’s electricity — but they need to offer a genuine prospect for opportunity, for progress, for material improvement in peoples’ lives,” he said.
But a senior State Department official on Monday said “there are guarantees” that millions of dollars being sent by the US to help Palestinians would not end up in the coffers of the Hamas terror group.
“We’re going to be working in partnership with the United Nations and the Palestinian Authority to kind of channel aid there in a manner that does its best to go to the people of Gaza,” the anonymous official said during a briefing previewing Blinken’s visit. “I’m also sure that the Government of Egypt will have some role in that.”
“As we’ve seen in life, as we all know in life, there are no guarantees,” the official added, “but we’re going to do everything that we can to ensure that this assistance reaches the people who need it the most.”
At the town hall, Ocasio-Cortez also criticized President Biden for being slow to take action during the crisis and railed against the planned $732 million arms sale to Israel.
“It is illegal for the United States to provide military aid to governments that are violating human rights,” she said, adding that she joined with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to introduce a resolution against the sale in Congress.
But Blinken, in an appearance on ABC News’ “This Week” on Sunday, said the administration will follow through with the arms deal.
“The president’s been equally clear. We are committed to giving Israel the means to defend itself, especially when it comes to these indiscriminate rocket attacks against civilians. Any country would respond to that, and we are committed to Israel’s defense,” Blinken said.
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