The Obama administration reportedly released $221 million to the Palestinian Authority just hours before President Donald Trump took the oath of office.
Congress was notified of the decision on the morning of Jan. 20, according to an anonymous State Department official and several anonymous congressional aides, reports the Associated Press.
The funding had initially been approved by Congress for the 2015 and 2016 budgets, but it was placed on hold by at least two Republican lawmakers, Ed Royce of California and Kay Granger of Texas. The executive branch typically respects such Congressional holds, but they are not legally binding, the Associated Press notes.
The money, which is distributed by the U.S. Agency for International Development, is to be used for humanitarian aid in the West Bank and Gaza, according to the notification sent to Congress.
In September 2016, the Obama administration signed a deal giving Israel $38 billion in military aid, the largest amount of military aid ever awarded, reported The Washington Post. That is in addition to the $3.8 billion in aid given to Israel by the U.S. annually, the Post added.
However, the last-minute release of humanitarian funds for the Palestinian Authority is likely to be criticized by members of Congress and the Trump administration, notes the Associated Press.
The controversial decision comes only a month after the Obama administration was heavily criticized by members of both parties for abstaining from a UN Security Council vote condemning Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory.
The resolution declared that Israeli settlements have "no legal validity, constituting a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the vision of two States living side-by-side in peace and security," as quoted by the UN press release.
In addition to the money earmarked for Palestinians, the Obama administration also informed Congress that it released a relatively paltry $4 million for climate change programs.
Those funds are intended to provide assistance for clean energy, sustainable landscapes, cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and the creation of a climate technology center.