As the Biden administration continues to increase aid to Palestinians, a U.S. government watchdog, the General Accounting Office (GAO), reported Monday that the US Agency for International Development (USAID) failed in fiscal years 2015-2019 to follow vetting requirements that are in place to ensure beneficiaries of U.S. funding in the Gaza Strip and West Bank do not have ties to terrorism.
While USAID properly vetted its direct beneficiaries, it “did not ensure that awards these entities made to others, known as subawards, were compliant with antiterrorism requirements,” reads the GAO report.
With Gaza being controlled by the Foreign Terrorist Organization Hamas, proper vetting is essential to ensure there is no inadvertent funding of terrorist organizations using U.S. taxpayer dollars.
In January 2019, Trump revoked all aid being sent to the West Bank and Gaza; however, the Biden administration is reversing this policy in a reported attempt to instill “trust and goodwill” with the Palestinians, leading the GAO to provide USAID with recommendations for improved vetting of subawards.
USAID responded to the GAO report, agreeing with the GAO’s recommendations for improving subaward vetting procedures and acknowledging the need for “proper stewardship of U.S. taxpayer dollars;” however, only time will tell whether USAID actively practices the recommendations.
Meanwhile, in an act that was not publicly announced, the Biden administration has reportedly assigned $75 million of taxpayer money to Palestinian aid, based on a March 26 congressional notification, according to The Associated Press.
It is unclear whether this total includes the $15 million of COVID-19 relief announced last Thursday.
While the administration’s rapid escalation of Palestinian funding may come as a surprise to some, Director of American Center for Democracy and expert on terror financing Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld told The Foreign Desk it “is anything but surprising.”
“Neither the finding that USAID has repeatedly failed to vet the Palestinian recipients of U.S. taxpayer’s money, nor the State Department’s latest report of the Palestinian leadership’s corruption, human rights violations, and oppression are an obstacle to showering them with millions to demonstrate the return of Obama’s Middle East policy of supporting the major anti-American and anti-Israel actors in the region, the Palestinians and Iran,” said Ehrenfeld.