In his final hours as President, Barack Obama ordered authorized funds for the Palestine Authority to be sent to Ramallah.
The funds had been “delayed” by two Republican members of the House, Ed Royce of California, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Kay Granger of Texas, a member of the House Appropriations Committee.
Those two GOP House members had placed “holds” on the funds, which has been authorized by Congress in budget years, 2015 and 2016.
Royce and Granger said their reason for holding the funds were “moves the Palestinian Authority had taken to seek membership in international organizations”.
News of Obama’s decision to release the authorized funds were reported by the Associated Press, and reported in several publications, including The Times of Israel.
The Times explained that “Congressional holds are generally respected by the executive branch, but are not legally binding after funds have been allocated”.
Congress members Royce and Granger had their reasons for delaying the funds. Among those reasons could be the influence of the Israel Lobby which shapes American politics toward what it perceives to be in Israel’s best-interests.
The website Jerusalem Online, reported:
A senior level US Department of State official and several congressional aides said that the outgoing Obama administration “formally notified Congress” that the money would be transferred to Ramallah just hours before Donald Trump was sworn in.
The funds for the Palestinian Authority were part of more than $227 million in foreign affairs funding that was released simultaneously during Obama’s last day in the White House.
In addition to the funds that went to the Palestinian Authority, $4 million went to climate change initiatives and $1.25 million to UN organizations.
A conservative site was less than charitable over the release of funds, starting with a question shaped by the Lobby/Fox News world view.
Here is the site, Hot air, in which you may also find a short clip from Fox News:
Is this legal? Congress had held up foreign-aid funds allocated to the Palestinian Authority after Mahmoud Abbas tried an end-run around direct and unconditional peace talks with Israel for a two-state solution, by having international organizations recognize them as a state.
In a last-minute act of defiance, John Kerry sent the money anyway, only informing Congress of the transfer just hours before Donald Trump’s inauguration…. To answer the question in the lead, it does, in fact. appear to be legal. Congress allocated the funds to the State Department, but later put a “hold” on its disbursement . . . . The executive branch normally honors those holds, but is not legally obligated to do so, having already attained the funds in an appropriation.
The last-minute decision to release the funds still smells pretty badly, and reflects on the character of Kerry and Barack Obama.
How it smells, of course, is in the nose of the smeller. As for reflecting on the character of Kerry and Obama, there is a different conclusion to be reached than the one Hot air wants to convey.
It should be apparent to anyone who smells beyond the bubble of the noses of the Israel Lobby and Fox News, that government leaders who want to act for justice, carry the burden of operating in a democracy where Congress has yielded its moral compass to its Tel Aviv masters.
But it must be noted that Bibi Netanyahu is having his own palpitations over Donald Trump.
A large number of those U.S. Neo-Conservatives, who would ordinarily have been major players in the Trump foreign policy circle, are currently being ignored by Trump.
These Neo-Con warriors were faithful soldiers for George W. Bush’s Middle East team, many of whom started with his ill-fated invasion of Iraq. If Trump wants to follow Israel’s wishes, as Bush consistently did, why not call on the Neo-Cons?
The answer, as the Washington Post’s David Nakamura outlined in a January 16 article, are to be found in “Never Trump” letters they signed. Nakamura wrote:
They are some of the biggest names in the Republican national security firmament, veterans of past GOP administrations who say, if called upon by President-elect Donald Trump, they stand ready to serve their country again.
But their phones aren’t ringing. Their entreaties to Trump Tower in New York have mostly gone unanswered. In Trump world, these establishment all-stars say they are “PNG” — personae non gratae.
Their transgression was signing one or both of two public “Never Trump” letters during the campaign, declaring they would not vote for Trump and calling his candidacy a danger to the nation.
One letter, with 122 names, was published by War on the Rocks, a website devoted to national security commentary, during the primary season in March.
The other, with 50 names, including some repeat signatories, was published by the New York Times during the general-election campaign in August.
As Trump Energy Secretary appointee Rick Perry, might put it, Oops.
Meanwhile, Trump has a pro-Israel loyalist ready to make deals that hold and, hopefully, will not require the Neo-Con “shock and awe” solution to every problem.
That would be his son-in-law Jared Kushner. The Jewish News writes that Trump sees Kushner as a deal-maker:
Donald Trump has said he will put his 35-year old Jewish son-in-law in charge of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. . . In the president-elect’s first major interviews with European media, with The Times and German newspaper Bild, he said that Jared Kushner – the husband of his daughter Ivanka – would “secure an Israel deal”.
Last week Kushner was appointed senior adviser to Trump, but despite critics accusing the incoming commander-in-chief of nepotism, the new U.S. president has stuck to earlier suggestions that his son-in-law would play a key role in securing a Middle East peace deal.
Trump said: “You know what? Jared is such a good lad. He will secure an Israel deal which no one else has managed to get. You know, he’s a natural talent, he is the top. He is a natural talent. You know what I’m talking about – a natural talent. He has an innate ability to make deals. Everyone likes him.”
Even though those gushing words of praise sound a bit naive, they do reveal Trump’s understanding of how foreign policy works: Make deals.
Watching from outside, in the cold, is a whole passel of Neo-Con veterans aching to get back into the game. And they probably would be at the table, except that Donald Trump has a list, two lists to be precise, with names that said “Never Trump”.
We will have to wait and see how President Trump and the Prime Minister of Israel get along in their early February meeting. Rest assured, that “natural talent” son-in-law, Jared Kushner, will be close at hand.
Finally, if like many listeners of National Public Radio, you have missed the Saturday afternoon Prairie Home Companion programs hosted by Garrison Keillor, our amiable Minnesota companion, has not entirely left us.
He is no longer with NPR, alas. But he is still with us through his syndicated column for the Washington Post.
The man is clueless, tightly locked inside his own small bubble. A sizable minority of Americans, longing for greatness or wanting to smack down an ambitious woman and to show those people in the hellhole coastal cities what the real America is all about, has elected him. To him, this minority is a mass movement such as the world has never seen. God have mercy. . . .
It is up to Republicans to save the country from this man. They elected him, and it is their duty to tie a rope around his ankle. They formed a solid bloc against President Obama and held their ranks, and now, for revenge, they will go after health insurance subsidies for people of limited means, which is one of the cruelest things they can possibly do. . . .
The only good things to come out of that inauguration were the marches all over the country the day after, millions of people taking to the streets of their own free will, most of them women, packed in tight, lots of pink hats, lots of signage, earnest, vulgar, witty, a few brilliant (“Take your broken heart and make it art”), and all of it rather civil and good-humored. That’s the great America I grew up in. It’s still here.
Yes, that America is still here. And our hopes for a better future lies in knowing that citizens who marched and citizens who believe in this nation’s high ideals, will continue to watch this man with their “withering gaze“.
They will watch, and they will act each day in response to how this man handles the high position we have given him.
The picture of former President Obama is a Getty Image from The Hill.