Raad Adayleh / AP
The Trump administration announced on Friday that it would stop funding an agency serving more than 5 million Palestinian refugees. It is a reversal of decades of US policy on a key issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"The United States will not provide further funding for this irreversible operation," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement
Over the past few years, the US has provided more than $ 350 million – about one third of the annual budget of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. The organization uses the funds to run schools and clinics for Palestinian refugees in the Occupied Territories – West Bank and Gaza – as well as in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
The White House's withdrawal is expected for some time; She had suspended most of the aid in January after contributing $ 60 million. At the time, officials said the department was reevaluating future aid and urged other countries to take greater financial responsibility.
"We have made it clear that the United States is no longer willing to pay the very disproportionate share of the burden of UNRWA costs that we had for many years," Nauert said in the statement.
Hours after Nauert issued the announcement critical of the organization, UNWRA spokesman Chris Gunness responded to the allegations in a statement:
We criticize the UNRWA schools, health centers and emergency response programs as "irreparably flawed." to return in the best possible way. It is precisely these programs that have been proven to produce one of the most successful human development processes and outcomes in the Middle East
Gunness added: "UNRWA will pursue with even greater determination and commitment the mobilization of its existing partners, 20 of whom have until now been responsible for their development Work has taken more money than in 2017. "
In recent months, the Arab and European neighboring countries have committed to protect the aid organization. Only a few hours before the announcement of the State Department on Friday Germany agreed to a significant increase in funds, the AP reported.
The Times of Israel reported, "Jordan said Thursday that next month's charity event will take place at the United Nations headquarters in New York, UNRWA will be out in the water."
But international efforts seem to have done little to help to alleviate the concerns of the Trump administration regarding the UN agency's basic business model, which it described as "simply unsustainable" and called it a "crisis mode". Palestinians accuse the White House of using the agency – and the well-being of refugees – as a bargaining chip to force the Palestinian leadership into a US-brokered peace agreement with Israel Palestinian leaders disrupted contact with the US Israel's claim to Jerusalem as capital The Palestinians want part of the city as the capital of their future state.
The AP reported:  "Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were driven out of their homes during the war that led to the founding of Israel in 1948. Today there are an estimated 5 million refugees and their descendants, mostly scattered across the region The Palestinian leaders declare the right of these refugees to return to land that is now under Israeli control. "
Aaron David Miller, a former US negotiator in Middle East peace talks, warned Twitter that the cuts could lead to instability In the end, it will cost Israel.
Defundng Unrwa – whatever his mistakes are – is a mistake, it will hurt the Israeli security that will allow Hamas in the West Bank to open up and create a situation where Israel gets stuck One way or the other – with the check: https: //t.co/D2Qr9PZ1K7
– Aaron David Miller (@aarondmiller2) August 31, 2018
"Defending UNWRA – whatever its mistakes – is a mistake," Miller wrote. "It will creating damage to Israeli security, creating openings for Hamas in the West Bank, and creating a situation in which Israel will, in one way or another, be stuck with the check. "
The State Department did not address concerns that the US was trying could press the United Nations to reduce the number of refugees But Nauert said the US was worried about the impact of their budget cuts on the quote "innocent Palestinians" – and flipside Instead, provide direct help.
"The United States will intensify its dialogue with the United Nations, host governments, and international stakeholders on new models and new approaches," she said in the statement.