Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

FOCUS

'New right', old ideas? A closer look at the far right in Germany

Read more

YOU ARE HERE

Art Deco: France's love affair with the Roaring Twenties

Read more

#THE 51%

India's vanishing women workers

Read more

REPORTERS

Reporters: An outside view of France's Fifth Republic

Read more

#TECH 24

Audrey Tang: A hacker-turned-minister in Taiwan

Read more

ENCORE!

The Land of the Rising Sun comes to La République

Read more

PERSPECTIVE

Concerts Without Borders: Making classical music accessible

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

UK car industry says draft Brexit deal is 'positive step'

Read more

IN THE PRESS

'Resignations, a coup and a day of hostility. But May fights on'

Read more

Middle East

US halts funding to UN agency for Palestinian refugees

© Said Khatib, AFP | A Palestinian man carries a sack of flour inside the United Nations' offices after receiving food supplies at the Khan Yunis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip on February 11, 2018.

Video by FRANCE 24

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2018-09-01

The United States is ending its decades of funding for the U.N. agency that helps Palestinian refugees, the State Department announced Friday, a week after slashing bilateral U.S. aid for projects in the West Bank and Gaza.

The U.S. supplies nearly 30 percent of the total budget of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA, and had been demanding reforms in the way it is run. The department said in a written statement that the United States "will no longer commit further funding to this irredeemably flawed operation." The decision cuts nearly $300 million of planned support.

It comes as President Donald Trump and his Middle East pointmen, Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, prepare for the rollout of a much-vaunted but as yet unclear peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians, and it could intensify Palestinian suspicions that Washington is using the humanitarian funding as leverage.

FRANCE 24's Irris Makler reports from Jerusalem

The Palestinian leadership has been openly hostile to any proposal from the administration, citing what it says is a pro-Israel bias, notably after Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December and moved the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv in May. The Palestinian Authority broke off contact with the U.S. after the Jerusalem announcement.

In 2016, the U.S. donated $355 million to the UNRWA, which provides health care, education and social services to Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, and it was set to make a similar contribution this year. In January the Trump administration released $60 million in funds but withheld a further $65 million it had been due to provide. The remaining amount - around $290 million - had yet to be allocated.

"When we made a U.S. contribution of $60 million in January, we made it clear that the United States was no longer willing to shoulder the very disproportionate share of the burden of UNRWA's costs that we had assumed for many years," the statement said. "Several countries, including Jordan, Egypt, Sweden, Qatar, and the UAE (United Arab Emirates) have shown leadership in addressing this problem, but the overall international response has not been sufficient."

'It's going to encourage violence'

The statement criticized the "fundamental business model and fiscal practices" of UNRWA, and what the department characterized as the "endlessly and exponentially expanding community of entitled beneficiaries."

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were forced from their homes during the war that led to Israel's establishment in 1948. Today, there are an estimated 5 million refugees and their descendants, mostly scattered across the region - a figure that has become a point of contention. Palestinian leaders assert the right of those refugees to return to land now under Israeli control.

Last Friday, the State Department announced the U.S. was cutting more than $200 million in bilateral aid to the Palestinians, following a review of the funding for projects in the West Bank and Gaza. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' spokesman called that U.S. decision an attempt to force the Palestinians to abandon their claim to Jerusalem.

Speaking before the announcement on UNRWA, its representative in Washington, Elizabeth Campbell, said the withdrawal of U.S. funding would leave the agency facing a financial crisis, but noted that Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and others have provided more than $200 million in new funding to help cover its budget this year.

In recent days, senior Trump administration officials publicly expressed dissatisfaction with UNRWA but stopped short of saying the U.S. would defund the agency.

On Tuesday, Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, complained that "Palestinians continue to bash America" although it's the main donor for UNRWA. Speaking at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank, Haley also said, "we have to look at right of return" of those classified as Palestinian refugees. She called on Middle East nations to increase aid.

There is deepening international concern over deteriorating humanitarian conditions in the West Bank and Gaza.

The State Department statement said the U.S. will intensify dialogue with the United Nations, host governments and international stakeholders about new models and new approaches to help Palestinians, especially schoolchildren, which may include direct bilateral assistance from the U.S. and others.

(AP)

Date created : 2018-08-31

  • REPORTERS PLUS

    Video: Stateless in Palestine

    Read more

  • USA

    Trump threatens to withdraw US from WTO

    Read more

  • ISRAEL

    Palestinians die in clashes with Israeli forces at Gaza border

    Read more

COMMENT(S)