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The US Palestinian Refugee Agency: What it does and why it matters



The United Nations Organization, which supports Palestinians who qualify as refugees, has received more than $ 6 billion in US funding since its inception nearly seven decades ago, making the US the agency's lead donor.

But in the past year, the Trump administration has made it increasingly clear that it sees the agency as part of the solution to the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. From January, the administration reduced the financing for the agency, which acts in a sense as a kind of government. The cuts have brought the agency into the worst financial crisis.

On Friday, the government said it would stop funding the agency, calling it an "irreversibly faulty operation." The disruption could further plunge the lives of some 5.4 million Palestinians relying on the agency's services in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem and the West Bank

Here are questions and answers to the agency, which is officially known as the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees Near East, short Unrwa:

What Does Unrwa Do?

Unrwa was originally established as a temporary aid relief organization and was founded in 1949 to help more than 700,000 Palestinians who fled or were displaced during the Arab-Israeli homeland war of 1948. Its operations are almost entirely voluntary Member States of the United Nations.

Unrwa has expanded rapidly over the years and today operates schools for more than half. Million children. It also provides health care, food, jobs, emergency loans, housing assistance and other services for Palestinian refugees.

What risks exist if Unrwa can no longer operate?

Many diplomats and political experts say that Unwwa is financially disturbed This is dangerous because at one time it brings new tensions to the Middle East, already fraught with tensions between Israel and its neighbors, especially in Gaza, the Palestinian enclave of two million, where Unrwa represents an important lifeline for about half of the population. Even Israeli officials, who have long disagreed with Unrwa, are nervous because the Israeli Ministry of Defense has long warned that sudden cuts in Unrwa financing could be destabilizing.

Why has the Palestinian refugee population multiplied?

This question is a source of long-standing disputes. The descendants of the original refugees are also considered refugees in the sense of Unrwa, which obliges the agency to provide services "until there is a just and lasting solution to the political situation," said Peter Mulrean, director of the New York office of Unrwa , This means that Unrwa has now served four generations of Palestinians.

The agency also does not necessarily remove Palestinians who have acquired citizenship in a new country from the list of registered refugees, what the population continues to swell

such a problem?

The passing on of refugee status from parents to children is seen by Israel as a reason to solve the Palestinian conflict so difficult. Refugees have the right to return to their homeland, which in this case includes areas that now belong to Israel. The prospect of millions of Palestinians one day residing in Israel is considered impossible by many Israelis and their supporters.

Critics of Unrwa also claim that it has developed into a vast social bureaucracy that maintains a culture of dependence among the Palestinian population. make the refugee problem even more insurmountable. Unrwa officials respond to the agency's mandate to help refugees until a lasting solution is achieved.

These are not new problems. What changed when President Trump took office?

The Trump government hinted early on that it would be far more sympathetic to the Israeli side of the conflict than the government of President Barack Obama. In his first year in office, President Trump announced that he is moving the United States Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the embattled holy city that the Palestinians also want to have their capital in a future independent state. The action angered the Palestinian leaders, who said the United States had lost its role in negotiating a peace agreement (19659002). Trump and his assistants, angry at the response of the Palestinians and what they regarded as ingratitude to major powers in the United States, began to signal that they were reducing their financial support. Government officials, led by American Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki R. Haley, complained that other countries should contribute more to Unrwa. In January, the government withheld more than half of a proposed $ 120 million payment and cast doubt on future payments for the 2018 fiscal year.

Unrwa officials, surprised, said they had been led to believe that the United States would do the same as the $ 360 million provided in the 2017 fiscal year. Suddenly they had an enormous deficit in Unrwas $ 1.25 billion budget.

How did Unrwa react?

Pierre Krähenbühl, General Commissioner of Unrwa, warned against emergency infusions from other countries or easing the American position if the agency were forced to drastically cut services, including the school. He started an urgent fundraiser.

Donations from European and Arab countries helped to raise $ 238 million. But last month, Unrwa cut more than 260 jobs and reduced mental health services in an austerity plan, saying that the school year could be delayed.

On August 16, Mr. Krähenbühl announced that unrwa schools would open on time. He said the agency was still faced with a $ 217 million loss that could close down schools and other services before the end of the year.

What will happen if the United States does not recover funding from Unrwa? Minister Ayman Safadi said that his country will be collecting items for Unrwa at the General Assembly next month at the General Assembly. Englisch: emagazine.credit-suisse.com/app/art … = 263 & lang = en the United Nations. At a meeting with Mr. Krähenbühl, Safadi said the event's objective was "to close the gap and come up with a plan that will ensure the ongoing ongoing funding of Unrwa for years to come."

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said his government has pledged to significantly increase its future contributions of around $ 94 million this year to a larger unspecified amount, Reuters reported Friday. He quoted him as saying, "The loss of this organization could trigger an uncontrollable chain reaction."

Edward Wong and David M. Halbfinger reported on the coverage.


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