State Department freezes Obama's $221m gift to Palestinians

  • State Department freezes Obama's $221m gift to Palestinians

State Department freezes Obama's $221m gift to Palestinians

Congress had approved the allocation of the funds in budget years 2015 and 2016, but a handful of members from the House of Representatives placed holds on them to protest Palestinian moves to join global organizations, the AP reported. Former Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly informed some lawmakers of the move shortly before he left the State Department for the last time Thursday.

In the final hours of his term, president Barack Obama directed his administration to release $221 million to the financially-burdened Palestinian Authority, a USA official confirmed on Tuesday.

"The Department of State is now reviewing last minute spending approved by the previous administration and will make adjustments if needed to ensure that it aligns with the priorities of the Trump-Pence administration", spokesman Mark Toner said. "Most analysts and observers didn't think Obama would or could do this", said Schanzer.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas gestures as he delivers a speech during a rally marking the 12th anniversary of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's death, in the West Bank city of Ramallah November 10, 2016.

The Trump administration has informed the Palestinian Authority that it is freezing the transfer of $221 million which was quietly authorized by the Obama administration in its final hours on January 20, a senior Palestinian source has told The Times of Israel. The funds had previously been budgeted to the Palestinian Authority but blocked by Congress. Obama released the funds just hours before Trump was sworn-in as president.

The decision was widely criticized by Republicans, who believe Obama defied congressional oversight. "He's going to make sure that every deal, every dollar that is spent by the government is done in a way that respects the American taxpayer".

However, the administration went along with the congress even though it was not legally binding by its decision until Friday when it released the money.