US denies freezing $125 million in aid to Palestinian refugee agency

Pauline Gross
January 7, 2018

Netanyahu at his Sunday weekly Cabinet meeting also reiterated support for Trump's threat to cut aid to Palestinians.

Netanyahu said that he relayed this position to the United States, and that this is the way to terminate UNRWA while dealing with genuine Palestinian refugees, and not their descendants.

UNRWA supports much of the population in the Gaza Strip and a cut to its budget could ramp up tensions with Israel, a main conduit for aid into the territory.

Trump said Tuesday on Twitter that "we pay the Palestinians hundreds of millions of dollars a year and get no appreciation or respect".

Over the weekend, Netanyahu's office said he "supports President Trump's critical attitude toward UNRWA and believes practical steps need to be taken in order to change the fact that UNRWA is being used to entrench the Palestinian refugee problem instead of solving it". "They don't even want to negotiate a long overdue peace treaty with Israel".

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

The Palestinians rely heavily on worldwide aid, with many analysts, including Israelis, saying such assistance helps maintain stability in a volatile region.

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The aid cuts came days after US president Donald Trump threatened to do so to the Palestinians if they refuse to return to the negotiations table with Israel.

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.

They further warned that such cut would be "catastrophic" for the organization, negatively impacting Palestinians living in refugee camps in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan and Lebanon whose livelihood depend on aid by UNRWA.

"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.

Israel's intelligence minister Israel Katz on Saturday told Channel 10 news that the United States decision to cut funding to the agency was "definitely right" and that "UNRWA perpetuates the refugee [status] in Gaza". It assists millions of people, chiefly through educational and health services.

Israel has long viewed the United Nations agency, known as UNRWA, as biased against it, an allegation the agency strongly denies, saying it is only providing necessary services to Palestinians. Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its united capital, while the Palestinians see the eastern sector as the capital of their future state. The move sparked a new wave of unrest between Israel and the Palestinians, and called into question the USA role in future peace talks.

Other reports by GizPress

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