The United States has announced that it will no longer be funding developmental and humanitarian programmes in Palestine under the aegis of the UN Relief and Works Agency. In an announcement made by the State department, the US while calling the UNRWA ‘irredeemably flawed’ said that the ‘United States had reviewed the situation and will not make additional contributions to the UNRWA anymore.’
The UN Relief and Works Agency was set up specifically to rehabilitate and support Palestinian refugees after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and currently has mandate to serve refuges in Gaza, West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. Presently, the UNRWA’s programmes in the region include the running of several schools, hospitals and many welfare programmes.
The decision by the United States is a blow to efforts to rehabilitate Palestinian refugees in the region since the United States was responsible for over 30% of contributions to the UNRWA, including $368 million in 2016. The US had already withheld contributions to the UNRWA earlier this year.
Although this development was met with a very positive response in Israel who had for years lobbied for such a step, people in Palestine are up in uproar with a spokesperson to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas calling it ‘an assault’ and ‘in defiance of existing UN resolutions. Even the UNRWA has come out and expressed regret at the news and has defended its humanitarian record in Palestine.
The United States has since the Trump Presidency, been very critical of the UNRWA’s projects and programmes in the region, often accusing the agency of exaggerating the no. of refugees and their issues. It has also been critical of the Palestinians, who they say have refused to come to the negotiating table with Israel and continue to bash the US, despite all their monetary contributions.
This new episode is only the latest in the long chapter that is the deteriorating relationship between the United States and Palestine, one which hit another low last year when the US officially recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.