The Biden administration has been roundly criticized this week for restarting aid programs to Palestinians that were formerly ended by the Trump administration. Of particular concern is the fear that some of the aid will end up benefitting the Palestinian terror group Hamas in control of Gaza.
The charge has been led by Republicans in Congress, including Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) and Sen. James Risch (R-ID), who have introduced legislation that would cut off U.S. funding from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) due to its alleged ties to Hamas, as well as its promotion of anti-Semitic views.
The criticism has intensified in the wake of a Hamas attack on Israel that killed more than 1,000 Israelis, most of them civilians, over the weekend. In the months leading up to the attack, the Inspector General for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) raised concerns about the lack of transparency around the aid money Biden approved for Palestinians and the risk that some of it could be funneled to terrorist-linked groups.
In other words, there were warnings and the administration ignored them.
The Biden administration appears to have sent money to several groups with known links to terrorism in the Palestinian territories. These include Natuf for Environment and Community Development, which is backed by a Palestinian bank subject to U.S. sanctions, and Fares Al-Arab, which has partnered with Hamas and pushed anti-Israel sentiments.
The State Department has also pledged significant funding to the UNRWA, receiving criticism for its alleged ties to Hamas and its use of resources by the group. In 2017, tunnels were discovered under UNRWA schools that were allegedly built by Hamas.
The Biden administration has pushed back at the criticism, noting the need for the U.S. to strengthen its foreign policy credentials in the region, as well as to ensure a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In March 2021, the State Department noted the “high risk” of Hamas deriving “indirect, unintentional benefit” from the aid money. For its part, the administration has reportedly discussed the need to request a sanctions waiver to ensure its funding does not violate anti-terrorism laws.