Biden Admin Probed Over ‘Illegal Efforts to Undermine Israeli Sovereignty Over Jerusalem’

Legal group wants internal documents about U.S. funding for Palestinians

Joe Biden and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in 2016 / AP
October 28, 2022

A legal advocacy group says the Biden administration is violating U.S. law by funneling more than half-a-billion dollars to the Palestinian government and is demanding the administration release a slew of internal documents that the group believes will reveal an illegal effort "to undermine Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem," according to a copy of the Freedom of Information Act request provided to the Washington Free Beacon.

America First Legal, a group of conservative lawyers and activists, hit the State Department this week with a FOIA request that instructs it to furnish a slew of internal documents about U.S. funding for the Palestinian Authority, which was frozen under former president Donald Trump but resumed when President Joe Biden took office.

The legal group suspects that a portion of this taxpayer aid is being used to support Palestinian-led projects in Jerusalem that could undermine Israel’s control of its capital city. The Trump administration recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital, but the Biden administration, while formally upholding the policy, has moved to open a Palestinian Affairs unit in the city, fueling concerns that the consulate is working with the Palestinian government to erode Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem.

The Biden administration’s funding may also violate a bipartisan U.S. law that prevents taxpayer funds from reaching the Palestinian government until it ends a terrorist payment program known as "pay-to-slay," in which imprisoned militants and their families receive stipends. The Free Beacon reported earlier this month on a non-public State Department report to Congress that determined the Palestinian government is still paying terrorists, even as U.S. aid dollars flow.

"Make no mistake—the purpose here, contrary to U.S. law, is creating facts on the ground to undermine Israel’s borders and sovereignty and to reverse the United States’ recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city," Reed D. Rubinstein, America First Legal’s senior counselor and director of oversight, said in a statement. "The Biden administration is pumping hundreds of millions in U.S. taxpayer dollars into ‘projects’ that directly benefit both the corrupt Palestinian Authority and the terrorist Hamas dictatorship."

The organization’s FOIA centers on a State Department fact sheet from March that outlined projects run by the United States’ Palestinian Affairs Unit, which was opened to increase diplomacy with the Palestinian government. The State Department says this office is responsible for partnering "with Palestinian and American organizations to support projects in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza [Strip] that increase exchange between our two peoples and advance shared goals on topics such as education, entrepreneurship, environmental protection, English language learning, science and technology, art and culture, gender equality, human rights, and democracy, among others."

These programs also include "university linkage projects connecting American and Palestinian universities directly for exchange and collaboration for students and faculty," according to the State Department.

America First Legal wants to know the nature of these programs and whether they are benefiting groups that do not recognize Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem. The FOIA request instructs the State Department to turn over "all records" identifying these "Palestinian and American organizations," as well as the specific projects they are working on.

The State Department fact sheet also references "American spaces in Jerusalem Ramallah and Hebron" that serve as "venues and hubs for many of these" unnamed programs. America First Legal is asking for "all records identifying, about, regarding, or referencing each such ‘American Space,’ including the street address and budget of each."