US resumes Palestinian refugee funding

The Biden administration has announced a resumption of US assistance to the Palestinians, including to the UN agency that deals with Palestinian refugees, nearly all of which had been eliminated under President Donald Trump.

The State Department said it would provide a total of $US235 million ($A308 million) to projects in the West Bank and Gaza as well as to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

The administration had previously announced $US15 million for the Palestinians to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

The resumption in assistance has met opposition in Congress from pro-Israel legislators, who say the money may violate US law.

The move was immediately welcomed by the United Nations, the UNRWA itself and the Palestinians, while Israel expressed deep concern.

The Associated Press has previously reported that the administration notified Congress of its intent to ramp up aid to the Palestinians, but until Wednesday it had not publicly acknowledged any assistance other than that for Covid-19.

The new assistance comes as the administration cements a new Middle East policy that in many ways is directly opposite to the one pursued by Mr Trump.

"The United States is pleased to announce that, working with Congress, we plan to restart US economic, development, and humanitarian assistance for the Palestinian people," secretary of state Antony Blinken said in a statement.

He said the money includes $US75 million in economic and development assistance in the West Bank and Gaza, $US10 million for peacebuilding programs and $US150 million for the UNRWA.

Blinken sought to forestall congressional criticism by saying that "all assistance will be provided consistent with US law", but Republican members of Congress are already gearing up to fight the aid.

The announcement came on the same day that President Joe Biden reaffirmed his commitment to a two-state resolution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict in a phone call with Jordan's King Abdullah II.

Blinken maintained that US support to the Palestinians is key to advancing American interests in the region.

"US foreign assistance for the Palestinian people serves important US interests and values," he said.

"It provides critical relief to those in great need, fosters economic development, and supports Israeli-Palestinian understanding, security co-ordination and stability. It also aligns with the values and interests of our allies and partners."

Israel repeated longstanding allegations that the UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and is in need of major reform before support can be restored to it.

"Israel's position is that the organisation in its current form perpetuates the conflict and does not contribute to its resolution," the Israeli foreign ministry said.

The new assistance appears aimed at encouraging the Palestinians to return to negotiations with Israel.

The top Republicans on the House and Senate foreign affairs committees said the resumption in aid "undermines US interests".

"We are disappointed that the Biden administration has decided to resume funding for UNRWA without securing any reforms from the organisation."