145 House Democrats Urge Top Republican: Release Hold on Palestinian Aid Money

Money 'desperately needed' in wake of Gaza-Israel fighting, Democrats say. Effort led by Rep. Jamie Raskin wins support from across ideological spectrum of Democratic Party

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A Palestinian man searches for belongings amid amid the rubble of a house destroyed in Israeli air strikes during Israeli-Palestinian fighting, in Gaza City June 2, 2021.
A Palestinian man searches for belongings amid amid the rubble of a house destroyed in Israeli air strikes during Israeli-Palestinian fighting, in Gaza City June 2, 2021. Credit: REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

WASHINGTON - 145 House Democrats urged the ranking Republican member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to release the hold on $75 million appropriated for Palestinian aid.

The lawmakers, led by Rep. Jamie Raskin, wrote to Sen. James Risch "to respectfully request that you release your hold on tens of millions of dollars in appropriated humanitarian aid that is so desperately needed to meet the needs of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian civilians rebuilding their lives in the wake of the fighting between Hamas and Israel earlier this month."

"Gaza is experiencing a humanitarian catastrophe. Buildings lie in rubble. Access to clean water and electricity is sporadic or nonexistent. Food insecurity is spreading. COVID-19 is running rampant and thousands of people have been displaced and rendered homeless. The magnitude of the crisis is staggering," they wrote.

Risch is said to be behind the hold on $75 million in aid that the Biden administration committed toward development and economic assistance over the next year that will support relief and recovery in the West Bank and Gaza.

The lawmakers noted in their letter that the aid in question was passed in the 2020 fiscal year with bipartisan support and signed into law by former President Donald Trump.

They added that the assistance would be provided in full accordance with U.S. law and administered and overseen by the U.S. government and by vetted partners on the ground. "Blinken has made clear that Hamas and other terrorist groups will not benefit from our humanitarian assistance," they said.

The letter includes signatures by lawmakers from across the ideological spectrum of the Democratic Party, including progressive lawmakers such as Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, as well as pro-Israel stalwarts like Reps. Ted Deutch, Kathy Manning and Debbie Wasserman Schultz. It also includes Rep. Jerrold Nadler, whose muted defense of Israel's actions in Gaza raised concerns in Jerusalem.

"We are pleased to support Representative Raskin's effort and appreciate each of the 145 members who signed the letter. Senator Risch should immediately release his hold on this aid," said Hadar Susskind, President and CEO of Americans for Peace Now.

"Signed by two-thirds of House Democrats, this letter is both a strong statement of support for US aid to the Palestinian people generally, and a clear signal to President Biden that he has the political backing to cease honoring the bad-faith hold by some in Congress and to disburse these funds without further delay,” said J Street Director of Government Affairs Debra Shushan.

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