Saturday, 20 October, 2018

Israel said cautiously backing expected United States aid cut to Palestinian refugee agency

US official denies that funds for Palestinian refugees frozen Netanyahu: UNRWA needs to pass away from the world
Ellis Copeland | 07 January, 2018, 15:29

Days after President Donald Trump threatened to withhold future aid payments to Palestinians, Axios said the funding was frozen until the U.S. government finishes its review of aid to the Palestinian Authority.

"UNRWA is an organisation that perpetuates the Palestinian refugee problem", Netanyahu said at the beginning of his weekly cabinet meeting.

"This is a body established separately 70 years ago, just for Palestinian refugees, while the UNHCR exists for all other refugees in the world", Netanyahu said.

The US is now UNRWA's primary source of funding, giving the agency over $300 million per year.

UNWRA sources in the Gaza Strip and West Bank told Israel's Haaretz daily that a cut in U.S. funding to the agency would threaten the jobs of some 12,000 teachers in the Palestinian territories and the jobs of over 20,000 teachers in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan.

But analysts say that the aid helps maintain stability in a volatile region, and an unnamed Israeli security source told Channel 10 Friday that the USA funding cut would make the already dire humanitarian situation in Gaza "much worse".

The decision has been taken days after President Trump threatened to withhold future aid payments to Palestinians, Axios news site reported.

Earlier this week, President Trump tweeted: "We pay hundreds of millions of dollars a year and get no appreciation or respect".

Israel has often criticized UNRWA, accusing it of sheltering terrorists and allowing Palestinians to remain refugees even after settling in a new city or country for many generations, thus complicating a possible resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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UNRWA is specifically dedicated to serving some 5.3 million registered Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and throughout the Middle East.

If Trump really wants the two countries to negotiate, he would withhold money to Israel until they cease encroaching on Palestinian land and agree to a two-state government instead of the present system.

Under the previous Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, the status of Jerusalem should be determined through the final-status talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

It was not immediately clear whether Trump was threatening the entirety of the budget, worth $319 million in 2016, according to United States government figures.

Haley and the administration were also angered by action at the U.N. General Assembly in December in which member states voted 128-9 to condemn Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv.

"The U.S. threats mainly aim at submitting the Palestinians to the U.S. dictations", said Ahmed Awad, a professor of political science with Beir Zeit University.

The US on Friday denied reports that $125 million in UNRWA funding had already been frozen, saying that the decision was still under review.

An internal Foreign Ministry report last week argued that cutting funds to UNRWA "may worsen the humanitarian situation and lead to catastrophe, especially in Gaza", adding that the burden of providing the services UNRWA now provides will be placed on Israel. "There are still deliberations taking place, and we have missed no deadline".

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