The Obama administration has released details of a plan to infuse another $300 million into West Bank and Gaza construction projects, spending it deems critical toward attaining the “success of a future Palestinian state.”
Despite combined U.S. and international donor-community efforts, a significant portion of the public infrastructure currently under Palestinian Authority control remains in need of expansion or repair, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development, the USAID.
Obama, through USAID, is stepping in to meet the need as a successful Palestinian state “depends upon an infrastructure system capable of providing basic services to a growing population,” the agency said in a Statement of Work released Sept. 24.
The Local Construction Project, or LCP, on the other hand, explicitly forbids the transfer of funds to PA-owned or controlled entities – though it likewise mandates that subsequent awards are given to local contractors, thereby excluding the participation of U.S. vendors.
Despite the prohibition against the awarding of contracts to government-affiliated firms, the PA indeed will directly benefit from the LCP.
While the bulk of the aid tentatively is slated for roads and local water-related projects, the construction and rehabilitation of municipal and local government infrastructure is permitted.
Other permissible projects include those benefiting health clinics and hospitals; wastewater treatment plant components and related infrastructure; and youth and sports facilities.
USAID also gave itself some additional flexibility by inserting a provision in the SOW allowing contract awards for: “Other related infrastructure construction programs, which may include any other infrastructure facilities identified as vital to the success of USAID strategic goals.”
Specifically excluded from project funding, however, are power generation and transmission infrastructure, large-scale wastewater treatment plant facilities and “provision of U.S. equipment and materials for the Palestinian Authority or Palestinian entities.”
Accompanying the document are updated U.S. government guidelines – known as Mission Order No. 21 – for ensuring that USAID-funded assistance “does not inadvertently provide support to entities or individuals associated with terrorism.”
Running concurrently with LCP infrastructure modernization are PA efforts to crack down on militants in the region, including those who are attempting to tighten their grip on Palestinian governmental and military affairs.
Indeed, as WND reported this past week, PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party recently began targeting Hamas military installations in the West Bank while also contending with the alleged infiltration by Hamas of Fatah security forces.
The LCP initiative is the latest of several programs that the USAID Mission to West Bank and Gaza launched in the past year, adding to a $3.5 billion portfolio of initiatives that the agency has financed since 1995.
Earlier this year USAID handed out the first round of awards in a separate Palestinian infrastructure project worth upwards of $750 million. Unlike LCP, the Infrastructure Needs Project Phase II enabled multiple U.S. companies to secure construction contracts.
USAID also unveiled a project to “fix” the PA, as WND reported, embarking upon a search for contractors to help the Palestinians to enact laws competently and create good policies governing public services.
The continuing assistance from the U.S. government additionally ties into the Obama administration’s efforts to promote the U.S. role in financing “Palestinian development and building the future Palestinian state.”
As WND also reported, Obama, through USAID, launched a media- and public-outreach program to improve Palestinian opinion of U.S. policy, an effort that would help secure Obama a place in history for bringing statehood a step closer to reality.