Although never passed, S. 3676 was the only bill introduced in 2010 which would have provided regular, annual funding for the State Dept. and the foreign operations of the U.S. worldwide for FY2011. If passed, it would have largely granted the Obama administration’s request to fund its programs in Palestine, Israel, and related activities in the region. As such, it is a useful indicator of the administration’s priorities and the support they were given by Senate appropriators.
For the West Bank and Gaza, aid was provided through the following spending accounts:
Economic Support Funds (ESF): Would fully fund Obama’s request for $400.4 m. in ESF, and make available an additional $9.3 m. from the Middle East Partnership Initiative (see below) for U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) programs in the West Bank and Gaza. Obama requested that $200 m. of this sum be available for direct transfer to the PA treasury account. Ordinarily, lawmakers set a limit on how much the president may transfer, but this bill contains no such provision. The U.S. retains prior approval of any transactions from the PA treasury account and a three-year power of audit over these funds. U.S. assistance is used by the PA to pay debt to creditors or suppliers of consumer commodities vetted and deemed eligible by the Dept. of State.
The remaining funds would go to USAID, which funds projects carried out primarily by U.S.-based NGOs, but also by international organizations and local and international NGOs. According to the State Dept., the programs are designed to ‘strengthen the PA as a credible partner in Middle Eastern peace,’ provide humanitarian assistance to Gaza, support economic development in the West Bank, and support the stability and capacity of the PA. Programs in the West Bank tend to focus on economic, infrastructure, and social development programs, while those in Gaza primarily provide humanitarian aid such as food assistance through the UN World Food Program. Aid to Gaza is further vetted to ensure that it is delivered only through U.S., international, or local NGOs, or municipalities not controlled by foreign terrorist organizations.
The State Dept. proposed these spending priorities in its request to Congress:
$55 m. to support the Palestinian Ministry of Health in implementing its Institutional Development Plan aimed at improvements to the overall Palestinian health care system.
$40 m. to develop new water sources, protect aquifers from contamination, rehabilitate and expand sewage systems, and upgrade sanitation systems.
$9.5 m. to fund a new program designed to enable reforms in the Palestinian Ministry of Education and Higher Education to improve management practices. The money would also fund programs to renovate schools, expand access to public schools especially for poorer students, improve teaching methodologies, and introduce information technology in classrooms.
$81.4 m. for various types of economic assistance programs, including $45.4 m. for infrastructure programs, development of a contiguous road network, and repair of existing roadways being the top priority. The rest of the funds are to upgrade vocational and technical schools; increase competitiveness and access to loans in the agriculture, tourism, marble and stone, and IT industries; and improve freedom of movement by improving efficiency on the Palestinian side of check points.
The request for funding for USAID direct humanitarian assistance programs was reduced by $32.6 m. from the 2010 level to $15.5 m. The State Dept. assumed there would be a decrease in the need for these programs, particularly in Gaza. The remaining funds were requested to provide food assistance and medical supplies, as well as assistance for higher-level economic and social needs.
International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INCLE) funds: Would provide all of President Obama’s request for $150 m., an increase of $50 m. over the 2010