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Why the US Congress differs from President Trump on Palestine

  • 20 Dec 2019

While Trump cancelled financial support for Palestinians last year, Congress is now offering a $150 million aid package to them and also favours the two-state solution, an idea Trump seems unsure about.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks before a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 3, 2015. ( Andrew Harnik / AP Archive )

Political differences between the American Congress and President Donald Trump have continued to pile up as the Democrat-controlled House impeached him on Thursday.

The latest political rift has emerged over the Palestinian conflict as the Congress passed a $1.3 trillion-valued spending bill, a part of which is designed to support the two-state solution — a Jewish and Palestinian state existing side by side in the Holy Land. 

Earlier this month, the US Congress also passed a resolution, which stated that a two-state solution could bring the ultimate peace to the Palestinian conflict. 

In recent years, Trump and his Israeli ally, hardliner Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, deliberately avoided referring to the two-state solution. 

During a meeting with Netanyahu in February, Trump said: “I’m looking at two states and one state, and I like the one both parties like. I can live with either one."

He was expressing no direct choice for the two-state solution, which has been seen as the only way to address the Palestinian conflict by previous US administrations. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks before a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 3, 2015.(AP Archive)

In May, Trump’s son-in-law, pro-Zionist Jared Kushner, who is charged with implementing a peace plan coined as the deal of the century, also expressly said that he prefers not to use the term for political reasons. 

“If you say two state, it means one thing to the Israelis and one thing to the Palestinians, so we said let’s just not say it, let’s just work on the details of what it means,” Kushner said. 

In March 2018, the Trump administration brought in legislation called the Taylor Force Act, asking the Palestinian Authority (PA) to withdraw support from the troubled families who have fallen prey to the grinding conflict, or face major aid cuts.  

But this time around, the Congress’s new spending package offers a total of $150 million to Palestinians, helping to fund the Palestinian Authority’s security services, providing humanitarian aid to families. 

Trump’s measure of cancelling American aid to Palestine left a heavy impact on its beneficiaries. According to several human rights reports, almost every Palestinian family has suffered because of Israel's violent aggression and most of them need outside support to get by on day to day basis. 

But this time around, Congress’s new spending package offers a total of $150 million to Palestinians, helping to fund the Palestinian Authority’s security services and providing humanitarian aid to families. 

The aid will reach to Palestinian families through the PA and non-governmental organisations. But if any of the aid is found to be delivered to a person or family member related to a banned Palestinian group by Washington, then, it will be subject to tort law. 

The bill also restored funding amounting to $30 million for conflict resolution programmes, which aim to develop communication between Palestinians and Israelis. Trump cancelled that funding in 2018. 

The $10 million portion of the aid out of the $30 million spending on peace programmes aims to fund efforts concerning the two-state solution. 

By taking the PA as an interlocutor, the Congress appears to be sending a message that it wants to facilitate a process in which a future Palestinian state could be brought to life.  

Is the bill a cover-up for real aid to Israel? 

While the Congress approved a $150 million aid to the Palestinians, it showed its real generosity to Israelis as it passed another bill, ensuring $500 million in aid to the country’s anti-missile and anti-tunnel defence programmes, which aimed to crackdown Palestinian groups, seeking liberation from Tel Aviv. 

Former president Barack Obama promised $3.8 billion in defence aid to Israel annually, but the pledge has not materialised as a tangible law yet. 

Several Democratic Senators including presidential hopefuls Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren expressed uneasiness about the Obama pledge, saying that Israelis need to make some concessions if they want to receive the full aid. 

In a recent democratic debate, Sanders, a liberal Jewish American, strongly backed the two-state solution saying that Washington needs to be “not just being pro-Israel. We must be pro-Palestinian, as well". 

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