Biden Administration Restoring Aid to Palestinians

A market in Gaza City on Wednesday. The Biden administration previously said it would resume aid to the West Bank and Gaza.

A market in Gaza City on Wednesday. The Biden administration previously said it would resume aid to the West Bank and Gaza.

Photo: Mohammed Salem/APA Images/Zuma Press

WASHINGTON—The Biden administration said on Wednesday it is restoring millions of dollars of economic and humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, reversing the Trump administration’s decision to cut the funds.

The total $235 million in assistance includes funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, or Unrwa, which assists Palestinian refugees, along with economic and humanitarian assistance.

The Trump administration had previously cut aid to the Palestinians over their refusal to enter into peace talks with the Israelis and to signal U.S. displeasure with the way that the U.N. refugee agency was run.

Secretary of State

Antony Blinken
said the aid reflected the U.S. commitment to advance prosperity and security for both Israelis and Palestinians, and a two-state solution. The move was praised by the Palestinians, and criticized by the Israelis.

The office of Palestinian Authority President

Mahmoud Abbas
welcomed both the renewal of aid and previous statements supporting a two-state solution. The aid would fund infrastructure and basic services “for dealing with the difficult conditions that the Palestinian people are experiencing under the [Israeli] occupation and in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic,” the office said in a statement.

Israel criticized the decision, calling it disappointing in a statement shared by its embassy in Washington. It accused Unrwa of spreading anti-Semitic content and called for it to be reformed. “UNRWA is an organization that engages in political advocacy and enables incitement to violence, therefore it should not exist in its current form,” the statement said.

An aid distribution center run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency at a refugee camp in Gaza City on Wednesday.

An aid distribution center run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency at a refugee camp in Gaza City on Wednesday.

Photo: mohammed salem/Reuters

The Biden administration had previously said it would restore some longstanding elements of U.S. policy toward Israel and Palestine, including resuming aid to the West Bank and Gaza.

The Trump administration’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem is expected to remain in place. Palestinians are hopeful that other matters, including the Trump administration’s Middle East peace plan might be abandoned.

The Palestinian Authority under Mr. Abbas froze relations with the U.S. in December 2017 over the decision to move the U.S. Embassy. Palestinians have for decades hoped to have a capital in Jerusalem for a future state.

The restored U.S. funding includes $150 million for Unrwa, which runs schools and healthcare facilities for Palestinian refugees, $75 million in economic and development assistance, and $10 million for peace-building programs.

That comes on top of a previously announced $15 million to help the Palestinians fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

The total however still falls short of the almost $400 million in funding that was made available to Palestinians before the Trump administration in 2017.

Republicans immediately criticized the decision, saying that the administration should have exacted concessions from the Palestinians and U.N. agency reforms before agreeing to reinstate the aid.

“The Biden Administration should use all available leverage to secure behavior changes,”

Sen. Jim Risch
(R., Idaho), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement.

Write to Jessica Donati at jessica.donati@wsj.com