Obama releases $147 million in aid to Palestinians

American aid officials said they will restore development programs for Palestinians after President Barack Obama ended a six-month funding freeze that shut down several community projects, including the local version of “Sesame Street.”

An official with the U.S. Agency for International Development, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation, confirmed April 28 that $147 million, which pays for infrastructure, education, humanitarian aid and health projects, had been restored.

The official could not say specifically whether the Palestinian “Sesame Street” would resume.

In October, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) froze $192 million earmarked for assistance to Palestinians in response to their United Nations membership bid the previous month.

Congress later released about $45 million of the funds. Then in March, Congress released another $88.6 million, but with strict limitations that the money could not be used for road construction or Gaza aid, among other areas.

Obama announced he would override Congress and waive restrictions on all the remaining funds. He explained the move as in the “national security interests of the United States.”

Israeli Foreign Ministry deputy spokeswoman Ilana Stein said “the U.S. may allocate its funds as it sees fit,” but added, “apparently the Palestinians are developing a sense of entitlement to these funds.”

The United States has contributed about $500 million annually to the Palestinians over the past decade, including millions to train security forces. — ap