US Withholds $65 Million in Palestinian Aid After Trump Threat

19 January, 2018, 02:06 | Author: Genevieve Gibbs
  • US Withholds $65 Million in Palestinian Aid After Trump Threat

After the U.S. Government partially withheld funding, UNRWA's head called on "people of good will in every corner of the globe where solidarity and partnerships exist for Palestine Refugees" to "join us in responding to this crisis and #FundUNRWA". Today, UNRWA offers to approximately 5 million Palestine refugees services such as education, health care and housing.

"You have 120 countries who voted against us [at the UN], that could more than take up the level of debt that UNRWA has", she continued.

The Palestinians also saw the United States decision as political.

United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres said he was unaware of any cut in aid but he was "very concerned" about the possibility because it "is an important factor of stability".

But she declined to say whether the United States has given UNRWA a list of specific changes or reforms it needs to undertake to unlock the rest of the USA funding. It is an independent agency, not a Palestinian institution.

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Despite the decision on the food aid pledge, she said: "We are the most generous country on the planet". Following Trump's announcement to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel the PA withdrew from any United States led negotiation saying that Washington had disqualified itself as an honest broker.

Nauert said that a "potential second tranche" in 2018 was also being held. But after a highly critical January 2 tweet from Trump on aid to the Palestinians, the State Department opted to wait for a formal policy decision before sending its first installment. Its commissioner-general, Pierre Krähenbühl says that given the long-standing relationship between the agency and the US, "this reduced contribution threatens one of the most successful human development endeavors" in the Middle East.

The US move threatens the ability of the United Nations agency to meet its major obligations towards the Palestinian refugees.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the move had nothing to do with "punishing" the Palestinians for their refusal to enter into negotiations with Israel, or their decision to push for a United Nations vote that resulted in overwhelming global condemnation of the Trump administration's decision to unilaterally recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

The US is UNRWA's single largest donor - it donated $368 million to the agency in 2016 alone.

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UNRWA's secretary-general, Pierre Krähenbühl, said the fundraising appeal would begin in the coming days.

"This administration is thereby targeting the most vulnerable segment of the Palestinian people and depriving the refugees of the right to education, health, shelter and a dignified life", the statement continued.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he had not been informed of Washington's decision, but was "very concerned" by reports that it was in the works.

The State Department wrote a letter notifying UNRWA of the decision, spokeswoman Nauert said.

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