US ‘collective punishment’ strips Palestine of $200 million

Bedouins from the Jahalin tribe walk amid their tents and huts near the large Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim (background) located in the Judea desert, some five kilometers east of Jerusalem, West Bank (AFP Photo / Menahem Kahana)
The US Congress has blocked almost US $200 million in aid for Palestine, in an apparent bid to make them pay for seeking UN recognition. Palestinian authorities say the move amounts to “collective punishment” of their people.

­The freezing of the funding threatens numerous projects, encompassing food aid, healthcare and various efforts to build a functioning state, The Independent reports.

The decision apparently reflects anger in the US Congress over Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s bid for statehood and full membership of the United Nations. However, the move also runs contrary to the policy of the Obama administration which, although opposing the Palestinian pursuit of statehood, nonetheless insists that America should provide aid in order to underwrite security and to safeguard the two-state solution for Palestine and Israel.

Former US President Bill Clinton advised his country’s legislators to leave the issue to the presidential administration. "Everybody knows the US Congress is the most pro-Israel parliamentary body in the world. They don't have to demonstrate that," The Independent quoted him as saying.

The move by the US Congress was strongly condemned by the Palestinian administration. “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," a chief spokesman for the Palestinian Authority, Ghassan Khatib, said on Friday according to the newspaper.

A senior Palestinian negotiator and member of Abbas's Fatah Party’s Central Committee, Mohamed Ishteya, told the Bethlehem-based Maan news agency that "it's unreasonable to bargain over political stances with money.

"This would put the ties between us and the United States in an embarrassing situation," he said, adding that the decision by US lawmakers will not change the position of Abbas’s administration.