US President Barack Obama, seen on June 2, 2015, in Washington, DC
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- During the last hours of Barack Obama’s presidency, the outgoing leader released $221 million to the Palestinian Authority (PA) in defiance of Republican members of the US Congress.
According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz,
a state department official and congressional aids all said that the Obama administration had informed Congress it would spend the funds before the official inauguration of Donald Trump on Friday.
While the funds had been approved in 2015 and 2016, at least two Republican lawmakers had put a congressional hold on dispersing the money.
According to Haaretz, the money originated from the US Agency for International Development and was meant to be spent on humanitarian aid in the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip and to support the development of good governance strategies in preparation for an independent Palestinian state.
Obama also released $4 million for climate change programs and $1.25 million for UN organizations, both of which a Trump presidency is expected to dramatically roll back spending on.
Trump is also expected to lead the Palestinian-Israeli conflict farther away from any prospective solution, as he has been vocal in his support for moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem
, and has also continued to be a public proponent for Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise.
Following Trump's election, Israel’s ultra-right Education Minister Naftali Bennett said that a Trump presidency would mark the end of a push for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
“This is the position of the president-elect, as written in his platform, and it should be our policy, plain and simple. The era of a Palestinian state is over,” he said.
Israeli officials have also delayed moving forward various legislation in recent weeks, publicly stating they will more easily advance plans to expand Israeli settlements and consolidate Israeli annexation of the occupied Palestinian territory under the Trump administration.
However, while Obama had publicly condemned Israel’s settlement building in the past, the former president still signed a $38 billion military aid package back in September
, promising Israel the hefty sum in the form of financial assistance and missile defense systems over the course of 10 years. The deal represents the largest foreign aid package given to a country in US history.