I had just learned of this from Bradley's question here.

What reasons would that administration have for suddenly giving such a large amount of money to a country in direct conflict with one of its only allies in the Middle-East? The transfer occurring before President Trump's inauguration gives it some fairly belligerent optics. This also seems to directly contradict his last year in office, of being extremely diplomatic and improving both the country's, and the world's optics of himself.

The event seems quite counter-intuitive to everything he's done the past year, which makes me wonder why he bothered to push it through on his final days.

Short article on the matter

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    its seems consonant with the recent UN vote. Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 14:19
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    That's completely bizarre. Under what interpretation is this not literally "giving aid and comfort to America's enemies"? Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 15:36
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    @MasonWheeler The interpretation that does not define Palestine as an enemy of America. Please note: I am explicitly taking no stand on either side of the debate over the validity of that interpretation. I have no desire to discuss the topic. I am merely offering an answer to your question.
    – KRyan
    Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 16:36
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    @MasonWheeler In its context, that phrase is referring explicitly to those who are making war on the United States. While some of the other groups in the region could qualify, the PA doesn't really fit into that category.
    – reirab
    Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 20:02
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    @I'm digressing, but: I wish there was more of a culture of civilized discussion. Avoiding to talk about contentious issues often means avoiding to talk meaningfully to people with different opinions at all, which is entering the echo chamber. Am I the only one who enjoys a good argument and is willing to put his own convictions to the test? Of course that includes the realization that many positions within the political spectrum are mere questions of taste, and not of right and wrong. Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 12:38

5 Answers 5


In all likelihood, the disbursement of the funds to the Palestinians happened when it did because of politics. Many Democrats and Republicans hold Israel's status in the region as sacrosanct, regardless of what they do, and doing so at the last minute of his term and at the beginning of someone else's doesn't leave much time for others to really critisize the move in any way that may actually matter.

It should be noted that the funds were allocated for the 2015-2016 budget year by congress. The purpose, from here:

The Obama administration had for some time been pressing for the release of the money for the Palestinian Authority, which comes from the U.S. Agency for International Development and is to be used for humanitarian aid in the West Bank and Gaza, to support political and security reforms as well as help prepare for good governance and the rule of law in a future Palestinian state, according to the notification sent to Congress.

Obama has been a proponent of a two state solution in the past, so it makes sense that he would want to push the disbursement through while he still had the power to do so.

As statesmen, Obama and the Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu have not been very close, which has at times resulted in public fights between the two administrations. This can be due to not only Obama's support for the two-state solution and his public statements against Israeli settlement building, but as well as the Iran nuclear deal that Secretary Kerry negotiated.

  • @SirJony absolutely I would, but that's rather over simplifying matters. For quite some time Iran has mostly voiced a policy of non-first strike, essentially "we don't like you, but we'd rather not have a war unless you attack us" while Netanyahu has been consistent in calling for the destruction of Iran. Israel has opposed Iran having any form of nuclear program, even though the Israel has approximately 100-200 undisclosed nukes and refuses to sign the NPT. And then there's the matter of Iran supporting the existence of a Palestinian State. It's not a black and white issue.
    – Kaithar
    Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 21:38
  • Hmm, it appears my comment and the one replying to it were removed while I was writing my last reply. If that is indeed the case, apologies for continuing the discussion after it was deleted.
    – Kaithar
    Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 21:40

Basically, it's related to the US abstinent on UN Vote on Israeli Settlements (United Nations Security Council 2334).

As quoted, then Secretary of State John Kerry said on the reason for abstaining:

“The status quo is leading toward one state and perpetual occupation,” Kerry warned. “The Israeli prime minister publicly supports a two-state solution, but his current coalition is the most right-wing in Israeli history, with an agenda driven by its most extreme element.”

This article by Vox explains the more sensible reason why the US abstained:

But beyond the White House’s formal statements on the matter, the move was widely seen as Obama’s parting shot at Netanyahu, with whom the president repeatedly clashed throughout his tenure.

As my colleague Zeeshan Aleem writes, although the Obama administration gave Israel a bigger military aid package than any US president in history, and has vetoed past UN condemnations of settlements, Obama had a “tense and at times outright hostile relationship with the right-wing Netanyahu.” Among other things, they clashed over Israeli settlement expansion and the terms of the controversial Iran nuclear deal.

(emphasis mine)

So, in conclusion, it's likely a follow-up action to the abstinent of the vote. Since there's no official reason given, these sources on why the US abstained are the best reasons I could find.

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    @MattBrennan You're welcome! That would be the broader topic on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict but there's a section on Wikipedia which explains it a little.
    – Panda
    Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 14:50
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    @MattBrennan The Israeli right-wing widely views creating a hostile state that surrounds their capital as a generally bad idea (though they've offered it anyway in exchange for peace in the past and been turned down.)
    – reirab
    Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 20:08
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    @gerrit - One consideration is water. There is only enough water table to sustain approximately 1/5 of the current inhabitants. It's a zero sum game at this stage. Without being partisan (I am not) the Israeli administration are pushing the Palestinians into a desert. Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 18:51
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    @Venture2099 seriously? where on earth do you get your information from? 'are pushing the palestinians into a desert'? Most of the water we drink here come from desalination plants (that Israel has built) anyway. We are not pushing anyone to a desert.
    – Shai
    Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 8:20
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    @Venture2099 the image you supplied is conceptually wrong. It's wrong to call it 'Palestinian land', because it never belonged to the Palestinians - there was never a 'Palestinian' state. Prior to 48', when the Israeli state was established, Jews and Arabs lived here together (by the way, they still do...). The apparent 'borders' in this image are a misconception really, as it implies Israel 'occupied' this land (whereas it belonged to no one - sometimes the romans, sometimes the turks, sometimes the british, sometimes the jews).Both seas in the photo are salty and can't be used for drinking
    – Shai
    Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 10:56

John Kerry and President Obama believe that Israel's settlements policy is the main reason for the standstill of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.The latest UN vote and this money transfer are an attempt to delicately direct Israel towards concessions in its plans to built houses for its citizens, hoping that in return the Palestinians will be less refusing to sit and talk peace.Israel is not convinced that giving up land or blocking settlements would achieve this, relating to previous attempts to achieve peace for land.

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    Hello @user11575, can you provide your sources to strength the answer? That way it won't be only your opinion.
    – nelruk
    Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 16:46
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    @nelruk I'm not a fan of answers without sources. However, I would like to point out that even the question sounds like asking for an opinion. Also, Jeff Lambert's answer starts with 'In all likelihood'. That sounds like an opinion to me.
    – Nitish
    Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 10:16
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    It's not a personal question because the OP asked What reasons would that administration have for suddenly giving such a large amount of money to a country in direct conflict with one of its only allies in the Middle-East? and you gave a fine answer (personal opinion and well structured) but didn't mention any source to strenght it.
    – nelruk
    Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 11:14
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    +1 I am OK with answers like above. What sources do you want - mind readers report or another jorno writing piece? Official statements you can find on google if they clear up anything. So what's the point to have them in the answer?
    – lowtech
    Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 18:58

Apologies that I cannot provide sources right now, but I have heard the following:

  1. The funding was approved by congress in the '15-'16 year; this is just executing a payment that was legally appropriated
  2. The funds allow certain humanitarian activities in the Palestinian Territories - since Hamas likes to cast itself as the Protector of the Palestinian people, when the US takes on this role it erodes the status of Hamas as the Good Guys
  3. The timing prevents any consequential political blowback - not much you can do to a president who has left office
  4. Consistent with Obama administration's position on occupation of Territories (per abstention on recent UN resolution)
  5. Balances the substantial military aid given to Israel.

I think point #3 most directly addresses your question - the other points add context.


History Lesson

Let's look back at the Marshal Plan, in a very simplified fashion:

  • USA and WWII Nazi Germany were enemies.
  • Allied forces (mainly USA, Great Britain and last but not least USSR) won WWII
    • Possible excursion: Lend-Lease made USSR a viable ally
  • USA provided financial/economical support to post-war Germany
  • Germany became an ally
  • USSR became a common enemy

Was the Marshal plan a bad investment?

Let's look at Afghanistan as a counter-example, again very simplified:

  • USSR entered Afghanistan during Cold War
  • USA provided financial/military support to Afghanistan
  • Afghanistan forced USSR out
  • USA stopped support
  • Afghanistan became an "enemy" (well, you can't say that they were anywhere near being an actual threat to the existence) of USA

Would humanitarian aid to Afghanistan have been a good investment?

Do you think (a part of) the amount of money spent to wage war against Afghanistan would've sufficed to make/keep Afghanistan an ally (especially when spent after commonly "defeating" the USSR)?

If history teaches us anything...

Now ask yourself:

  • Is supporting Israel in a self-perpetuating conflict a good investment?
  • May supporting the other side break the "self-perpetuating" of the conflict and thus end the necessity of financial support be a good investment in the long-term?
  • May even the threat of ending the support of Israel break the "self-perpetuating" of the conflict?

Obama seems to have tried the latter (threat to end support of Israel) first and because he was losing his opportunity to act upon that, he executed the other option (supporting PA) in a last moment effort.

Last section was a guess of mine. We won't know Obama's thought process, unless he confides the details to us. The rhetoric questions might be leading and thus convey opinion. However feel free to come to a different conclusion. To do so, I'd advise to read up on the details of

  • Marshal Plan,
  • Lend-Lease,
  • The war of Charlie Wilson (movie about US support for Afghanistan, I don't know the name of the political instrument, however the movie is entertaining and educational)
  • and UN mandate to foundation of Israel (which AFAIK actually defined a two-state-solution right from the beginning)

For further reading, I'd advise to find out, how much financial/economical support was provided to Russia after the end of cold war.
My conclusion is that giving support to an enemy is the only way a conflict has ever ended.

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    Do you have any sources at all to back up any of your assertions about Obama's actions? Because this answer seems to be random opinions vaguely based on a particular interpretation of historical events, and conflicts with actual, source-backed facts that help explain the reasoning for the payment.
    – Ellesedil
    Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 18:20
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    "mainly USA, Great Britain" -- how did you get to such conclusion? are you aware of magnitude of war operations on East vs West?
    – lowtech
    Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 19:07
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    The question is "why did Obama administration do this", not "why do you think it's a good idea that the Obama administration did this?" Those are two very different questions. This answer doesn't attempt to answer the actually asked question at all.
    – user11249
    Commented Jun 4, 2017 at 17:28

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