Obama and PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas meet in Washington in 2014
Obama and PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas meet in Washington in 2014 Reuters

A Palestinian Authority (PA) official claimed on Thursday that the PA has already received the $221 million in American aid authorized by former President Barack Obama hours before he left office.

"We have already received the last sum assigned by Obama's administration. They have transferred this money," Husam Zomlot, a strategic affairs advisor to PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas, told the Russian RIA Novosti news agency.

When asked to clarify whether he was speaking about the $221 million payment, he answered in the affirmative added that the decision was made in Washington "several weeks ago".

The Associated Press reported earlier this week that Obama had defied Republican opposition and quietly released the money to the PA just before Donald Trump became president.

The State Department later said it was reviewing the last-minute decision of the Obama administration, but Zomlot’s statement suggests it is too late for that.

Congress had initially approved the funding to the PA in budget years 2015 and 2016, but at least two GOP lawmakers — Ed Royce of California, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Kay Granger of Texas, who sits on the House Appropriations Committee — had placed holds on it in response to moves the PA had taken to seek membership in international organizations.

Zomlot also told RIA Novosti on Thursday that the PA "hope[s] that Trump's administration will carry on with the policy [towards the PA] that their predecessors had."

"Once they announce a new position [on the matter], we will react," he added.

In recent years, Washington has several times frozen – and subsequently released – some of the aid it provides to the PA.

In September of 2011, a $192 million aid package was frozen by Congress after the PA submitted a failed unilateral bid for United Nations membership.

Members of Congress later released $40 million in economic and humanitarian funding for the PA, saying it is “vital to establishing and strengthening the foundations necessary for a future Palestinian state.”

In April of 2012, Obama bypassed a Congress block and signed a waiver declaring that aid to the PA is “important to the security interests of the United States.”