Obama Quietly Gifts Palestinians A Big Surprise On His Last Day As President

One final gift at the last minute.

Cover image via Snopes

In the final hours of his role as the president of the US, Barack Obama did the unexpected and sent USD221 million (RM980 million) to the Palestinian Authority (PA), the interim self-governing Palestinian body established in 1994

File pix

Image via Snopes

According to media reports, the outgoing Obama administration formally notified Congress that it would spend the money on Friday morning, 20 January. It was reported that former Secretary of State John Kerry had informed some politicians of the move just one day earlier, before he left the State Department for the last time.

In addition to the USD221 million, more funds were allocated to agencies around the world including USD6 million in foreign affairs spending, USD4 million for climate change programs, USD1.25 million for UN organisations and USD1.05 million for the State Department's Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan office and the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs.

This last-minute allocation happened just right before Donald Trump took the oath of office as the 45th President of the United States.

That action is said to have defied opposition from the Republicans (GOP)

It was reported that the Obama administration had been pushing for the release of the money for the PA because the aid was frozen despite getting the Congress to approve the funding in the 2015 and 2016 budgets.

Quite a number of GOP members of Congress had placed a hold on the payment with claims that it could be used to fund terrorism.

It was pointed out that GOP lawmaker Ed Royce of California had opposed the aid, claiming that the US government's money was being used as "martyrs' fund" to pay "the families of Palestinian prisoners and suicide bombers"

GOP lawmaker — Ed Royce of California

Image via Bill Clark via JPUpdates

"It’s hard to see how this 'pay to slay' policy wouldn’t put them on the state sponsor of terrorism list," Royce said in a statement in July 2016.

However, the written notification sent to the Congress on 20 January by the Obama administration stated that the funds from U.S. Agency for International Development is to be used for humanitarian aid in the West Bank and Gaza.

It added that the funds will also be used to support political and security reforms as well as help prepare for good governance and the rule of law in a future Palestinian state.

The move by Obama apparently came as a surprise to many analysts and observers

Dr. Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies said that it was a shock and that it was "a strange message to send".

"I was tracking President Obama’s 11th-hour moves on the Palestinians and this issue never came up once… most analysts and observers didn't think Obama would or could do this," he was quoted as saying by Business Insider.

"The easiest way to sum it up is that Congress had been looking at various behaviours from Palestine — unilateral attempts at statehood, corruption, incitement of violence, and paying salaries to people in jail for terrorism — and that’s why the hold has been there," Schanzer said, adding that the PA had done nothing to cause Obama to warrant this reversal.

He also claimed that Obama was "releasing funds to a guy that’s become an autocrat", referring to PA leader Mahmoud Abbas who entered his 12th year as president this year, although he was only being elected to a four-year term in 2005.

Do you think Obama was being defiant in allocating the funds during his final moments as president? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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