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Home / World / US ends financing of UN agency helping Palestinian refugees

US ends financing of UN agency helping Palestinian refugees



  Palestinian refugees
Palestinians receive food aid from United Nations Relief and Aid Agency (UNRWA) in al-Shati refugee camp. US aid to UNRWA accounts for more than a quarter of the agency's annual budget of $ 1.2 billion
Abid Katib / Getty Images


Months after cutbacks in UN agency funding, humanitarian aid for more As 5 million people provide Palestinian refugees, the Trump government has decided to stop funding altogether, several sources told Foreign Policy, in a decision that, according to analysts, more misery and possibly unrest in Gaza, the West Bank and other parts of the Middle East East would cause.

The decision was made earlier this month between President Donald Trump's adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The government has been briefing regional governments in recent weeks on their plan.

The United States has provided $ 350 million a year to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) – more than any other country. The sum amounted to more than a quarter of the agency's annual budget of $ 1.2 billion.

A Palestinian child holds empty bottles as he waits to fill them with water.
Abid Katib / Getty Images

Dave Harden, a former representative of the US Agency for International Development At the meeting between Kushner and Pompeo said the decision that hardliners benefit in the region including the Palestinian Islamic group Hamas.

"An immediate and capricious interruption of UNRWA funding … runs the risk of collapsing the Palestinian Authority, strengthening Hamas and transferring responsibility for health, education and ultimately security services to the Israelis," Harden said FP.

"The decision is dangerous, with unpredictable consequences."

A US State Department spokesman declined to comment on the meeting, but said that "US policy on UNRWA has been frequently evaluated and discussed internally."

The decision underscored the influence of Kushner and Nikki Haley, the United Nations Ambassador to the United Nations, who overcame resistance to cuts by the Pentagon, US intelligence and the Foreign Office led by former Foreign Minister Rex Tillerson , Opponents of the steep cuts fear that the US withdrawal would increase instability in the region.

Jared Kushner
Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Kushner claims that the UNRWA's aid has built a culture of dependency among the Palestinians and maintains unrealistic expectations that it is one The Arab-Israeli War could return to their homeland in 1948.

He and Haley claim that the financial pressure will force the Palestinians to begin negotiations with Washington's Middle East peace team. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has stopped Trump's decision to relocate the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

They also believe that it will force other countries, particularly wealthy Arabian Sheikdahs in the Persian Gulf, to increase their financial support for UNRWA.

The government also cuts other forms of aid to the Palestinians, including $ 200 million to US charities providing medical aid and other humanitarian services to needy Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. These funds will be redirected to other humanitarian crises.

A Palestinian woman returns home with her children after shopping for humanitarian aid during the daily three-hour ceasefire
Abid Katib / Getty Images

"The Decision The US government will intensify the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, "said Andy Dwonch, mission director of the Mercy Corps for Palestine, on Monday in a statement. Mercy Corps is one of the charities that will lose funding due to last week's announcement.

"The unscrupulous decision to suspend support contradicts American values ​​and undermines US goals in a peaceful, secure and prosperous region."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu supported the plan to cut US funds, but military officials warned Israeli cabinet members over the weekend that a rapid UNRWA sinking in Gaza could create a vacuum that would fill Hamas Haaretz reports.

Peter Lerner, a retired Israeli lieutenant colonel who served as spokesman for the Israeli military for years, said he was particularly concerned about a report that the White House was considering restricting UNRWA operations in the West Bank, where Israeli and Palestinian security was forces have worked together to prevent attacks on Israelis.

"[UNRWA] keeps people off the street, employs them and provides social services," he said.

The move is also a blow to Jordan, a key US ally hosting nearly 2.9 million refugees, including 600,000 Syrians displaced by war in their country.

Kushner had proposed that UNRWA funds be passed on to the Jordanian government to cover the costs of caring for their Palestinians if Amman agreed to complete naturalization and accepted the fact that they would not be allowed to return to Israel. Jordan rejected the proposal.

Jordan's Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi met with Pompeo and Jason Greenblatt, the Special Envoy of the White House for Peace in the Middle East, last week to campaign for further UNRWA funding.

Following the meeting, Safadi said on Twitter that he emphasized the urgency of supporting UNRWA and stressed the " dangerous consequences of failure to overcome the #RWAWA deficit".

Palestinian boys walk through the ruins of a mosque destroyed by Israeli air strikes.
Abid Katib / Getty Images

UNRWA was founded in 1949 to help and protect more than 700,000 Palestinians displaced from what is Israel today during the Arab-Israeli War were. But the charity, which today runs schools and provides health and other social services to more than 5 million refugees in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, has been increasingly criticized by Israel, the White House, and pro-Israel legislators ,

In January, the United States cut its first installment of $ 125 million to UNRWA, giving the organization $ 60 million. At that time, the State Department left open the possibility that the United States could restore UNRWA funding. US Department of State spokeswoman Heather Nauert said back then that the decision to withhold funds should be used to promote reform in UNRWA and put pressure on other countries to cover more of the Agency's budget.

Mr Krähenbühl, UNRWA Commissioner-General, told FP last week that his agency had raised more than $ 238 million from other countries, including wealthy Gulf states, to fill the gap. But the agency has a shortfall of more than $ 200 million.

"It's a very unstable phase for us," he said.


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