Obama Signs PA Funding Waiver

President Obama's used a "security"
waiver to get around laws restricting funding to the PA, He did not say how much money he is sending, or why.

Chana Ya'ar , | updated: 4:21 PM

US President Obama and PA Chairman Abbas
US President Obama and PA Chairman Abbas
Israel news photo: PLO Site

U.S. President Barack Obama signed a waiver last week that allowed him to transfer funds to the Palestinian Authority, while relaxing some of reporting requirements. The announcement of the waiver, published October 7, did not include information on the amount or its purpose.

The requirements, dubbed a “routine bureaucratic measure necessitated by terrorism laws” by the PA-linked Ma'an news agency, are actually a complex 12-section network of legislation, the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006, which states the U.S. policy to promote “the cessation of terrorism and incitement in institutions and territories controlled by the Palestinian Authority...” 

The legislation requires exemptions be “in the U.S. national security interests" as Obama cited in announcing his signature of the waiver. The Act also requires that the proposed recipient is "not a member of, or controlled by, Hamas or any other foreign terrorist organization.”

However, as recently as last year, PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad spent NIS 90 million ($21.5 million) to rebuild Hamas-ruled Gaza, with tax revenues transferred by Israel with the understanding that the money would go to PA civil service salaries. Instead, Hamas directly received the funds, and no money was deposited in the workers' accounts in Gaza banks, an outright violation of the agreement.

The legislation requires the Secretary to “ensure such assistance is not provided to or through an individual or entity with terrorist ties” and prohibits the use of such funds “to recognize or honor individuals or the families of individuals who commit terrorism.”

The Act also urges members of the international community to avoid contact with, and to “refrain from financially supporting the terrorist organization Hamas until it agrees to recognize Israel, renounce violence, disarm, and accept prior agreements, including the Roadmap,” a term former President George W. Bush coined for his Middle East diplomatic process.

The legislation restricts the U.S. from sending foreign aid to Hamas-controlled areas of the Palestinian Authority.

It requires the president to certify that no PA ministry, agency, or instrumentality that receives U.S. funding is controlled by Hamas, “unless the Hamas-controlled PA has publicly acknowledged the Jewish state of Israel's right to exist and is adhering to all previous agreements and understandings with the United States, Israel and the international community, including agreements and understandings pursuant to the Roadmap.”

The exemption requires the president to also prove “the Hamas-controlled PA has made demonstrable progress toward purging from its security services individuals with ties to terrorism, dismantling all terrorist infrastructure and cooperating with Israel's security services, halting anti-American and anti-Israel incitement, and ensuring democracy and financial transparency.”

Exemptions allowed under the legislation, upon certification to Congress, include assistance for administrative and personal security costs for the office of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, and to cover the expenses for his official activities, as well as funding for the judiciary branch of the PA and other entities.

Arabs Renege on Funding Pledges to PA
While the Obama administration looks for ways to provide some of the $500 million in annual funding it has allocated, rich Arab nations are doing just the opposite – Arab states this year cut financial aid to the PA.

PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad told reporters in New York last month after a meeting with Gulf Arab ministers that he was hoping to raise some half a billion dollars from the group.

“We're hopeful that we really get the support and assistance that we need,” Fayyad said, but thus far, Arab nations have not stepped up to close the gap.

“We really expect the Arab and Gulf states to live up to their pledges,” added Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere, who chairs the PA donors group. Stoere, U.S. officials and others have called on Arab nations to step up their economic support for the PA.

PA Finance Ministry figures showed some $583.5 million in budget support last August – but only 22 percent of that came from Arab donors. The rest was provided by international funding sources, including the United States and the European Union.