Friday, 23 February, 2018

US Withholds $65 Million From UN's Palestinian Refugee Agency, Calls for Changes

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at an Israeli Indian Economic Conference in New Delhi India UNRWA a lifeline we can't afford to lose, refugees say
Derrick Tucker | 19 January, 2018, 01:58

"We hope that the United States administration and Congress can cooperate in reversing this politically motivated cut in aid before its effects ripple through the Middle East", said Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council. "This is not aimed at punishing anyone".

"The United States government and the Trump administration believe that there should be more so-called burden-sharing to go around", said Nauert. Administration officials say other countries should contribute more.

A Palestinian official quickly criticised Washington's decision to withhold some of the money and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was unaware of any change on aid but he was "very concerned" about the possibility of a cut in funding.

Even if Washington provided the additional $65 million, the $125 million total would be well below the $355 million that a United States official said it gave UNRWA in the 2017 fiscal year ended September 30.

The reduced US contribution "threatens one of the most successful and innovative human development endeavors in the Middle East", he wrote.

"In a series of tweets, Trump had said: ".

"We pay the Palestinians HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect", Trump wrote.

President Abbas noted that Palestine would no longer accept the lead role that the United States government played in the mediation of the peace process between them and Israel after the Trump administration announced that they were going to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel formally. No matter the USA bilateral relationship with the Palestinian Authority, UNRWA should not be a bargaining chip.

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The agency has laid off dozens of staff members in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and more than 100 employees in Jordan because of the delay and subsequent cut in the USA payment, Haaretz reported on Monday.

"There is a need to undertake a fundamental re-examination of UNRWA, both in the way it operates and the way it is funded", one official said on condition of anonymity.

Sinn Fein M.E.P. has critiscised U.S. President, Donald Trump, and his administration for, what she describes as, "withholding" aid money earmarked for Palestinian refugees.

Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danon lauded the decision.

For a lot of Palestinian refugees the UNRWA is the last life buoy.

"It is time for this absurdity to end and for humanitarian funds to be directed toward their intended goal - the welfare of refugees", he declared.

"This is not aimed at punishing anyone", Nauert said Tuesday, as she outlined the USA decision to release $60 million in funding for the agency, while indefinitely withholding another $65 million.

In a statement on behalf of the PLO executive committee, Hanan Ashrawi accused the White House of "following Netanyahu's instructions". She added that the $60 million that was transferred to the agency was sent "to ensure that teachers, and also health care providers can be paid their salaries".

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