WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Within days, the Trump administration will announce a decision to end funding a US agency that supports Palestinian refugees.
FILE PHOTO: A Palestinian woman is participating in protests against possible cuts in UN relief agencies (UNRWA) assistance outside UNRWA headquarters in Gaza City on 1
The government pledged $ 60 million to the United Nations Relief and Aid Agency (UNRWA) in January, but denied another $ 65 million until a review was pending. The remaining $ 65 million will now be canceled, it said.
The withdrawal of US funds will be a blow to an agency that currently supports more than 5 million people in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and Gaza.
The move, which will take place more than $ 200 million a week after Washington's cut US aid to the Palestinians, is likely to exacerbate tensions between the Palestinian leadership and the Trump administration.
High-ranking members of the Trump government openly criticized UNRWA, including national security adviser John Bolton. The Palestinian leadership has angered the White House by boycotting its peace efforts ever since President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital, transforming the embassy into a reversal of decades of US policy.
"We have no announcements of UNRWA funding at this time," a State Department spokeswoman told Reuters.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Friday that Germany would increase its contributions to UNRWA as the funding crisis increased uncertainty. "The loss of this organization could trigger an uncontrollable chain reaction," said Maas.
UNRWA is facing a liquidity crisis since the United States, its largest donor for a long time, cut its financial aid earlier this year. The agency must carry out unspecified reforms and call on the Palestinians to renew the peace talks with Israel.
The agency was founded in 1949 after the first Arab-Israeli war in the aftermath of the exodus of some 700,000 refugees who fled or were displaced from Israel on their founding.
The decision to withhold some money is likely to aggravate the difficulty of reviving the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and further undermining the Arabs' belief that the United States could act as an impartial arbiter.
The last talks collapsed in 2014, partly because of Israel's opposition to an attempted unity pact between the Palestinian factions of Fatah and Hamas and Israeli settlements built on occupied land, which Palestinians are seeking, among other things, a state.
The Washington Post reported Thursday that the government would demand a significant reduction in the number of Palestinians recognized as refugees.
U.S. On Tuesday, United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley questioned the number of Palestinian refugees on the world question.
"We will be a giver if it (UNRWA) reforms what it does … if they actually change the number of refugees to an exact account, we will look back on a partnership," said Haley of the Defense Foundation of Democracies Think Tank.
She also said that the "right of return" to Israel claimed by the Palestinians as part of a possible peace settlement should be "off the table".
Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Yara Bayoumy and Bill Trott