In the wake of the recent horrific escalation between Hamas and Israel, the situation in Gaza remains extremely precarious. Thousands of Palestinians remain homeless. Power and water supplies need urgent repair. According to the World Health Organization, almost 200,000 people are in need of health aid and more than 30 hospitals or health clinics in Gaza were damaged in the crossfire.
Right now, more than $75 million in humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank is ready for imminent delivery, having been appropriated in legislation passed in the previous Congress and signed into law by the former administration. The assistance, however, has been indefinitely delayed by the Republican Ranking Member of the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Jim Risch, who is exploiting a little-known Congressional prerogative to block the funds.
Two-thirds of House Democrats have signed a J Street-supported letter calling on Senator Risch to end his stonewalling and allow assistance to be delivered. 17 Senators have signed another J Street-supported letter calling for robust, immediate humanitarian relief to Gaza.
Dylan Williams, Vice President for Policy and Strategy at J Street, says it’s come to the point where the White House should simply override Senator Risch’s obstruction and disburse the funds — just as President Obama was forced to do when faced with a similar effort to block Palestinian aid in 2012.
“Senator Risch is trying to turn this humanitarian assistance into a political football, trying to pit support for Israel against support for the Palestinian people” says Williams. “Given the dire situation in Gaza, it’s time to simply override Senator Risch’s hold on the funds — we can’t let partisan political games at home get in the way of urgently-needed assistance abroad.”
As Israeli security experts themselves have made clear, the poverty and deprivation in Gaza and the West Bank risks strengthening the hand of extremists whose answer to continued injustice and desperation is violence. Like all aid to the Palestinian people, these funds carry some of the most stringent safeguards used by the United States to ensure aid can only be used by approved organizations for legitimate purposes.
“Palestinian suffering does nothing to make Israel safer and we have to make a clear break with the Trump approach on that point, and many others,” says Williams. “Now is the time for the United States to give real meaning to our commitment to the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians to live in security, peace, and dignity.”
Help show the Biden administration there is broad support for swift action to override this bad-faith hold and deliver urgently needed aid. Sign the petition to the White House today >>