The United States President Donald Trump is expected to announce the decision to completely end its funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).
According to Foreign Policy news outlet, the decision was made at a meeting earlier this month between Trump’s adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
— Foreign Policy (@ForeignPolicy) August 30, 2018
The US has been providing UNRWA about $350 million per year, making itself UNRWA’s largest donor. The total amount made up more than a third of the agency’s $1.2 billion annual budget, according to UNRWA’s website.
Dave Harden, a former U.S. Agency for International Development official, said that the US administration’s decision is “dangerous, with unpredictable consequences.”
UNRWA, despite shortcomings, is a critical source of stability in the Middle East. It runs schools, health centers, provides food. Reckless decision that will be devastating for civilians (especially kids, as schools will have to be shuttered). https://t.co/7S506TN9VS
— Samantha Power (@SamanthaJPower) August 29, 2018
Kushner argues that UNRWA’s assistance has built “a culture of dependency” among the Palestinians and that it helps preserve unrealistic expectations that Palestinians would have the right of return to their homelands.
The right of return is one of the core issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Tens of thousands of Palestinians fled in the 1948 and 1968 Arab-Israeli wars and have demanded a right of return to their homes ever since.
“Even Israeli military officials have weighed in against cutting aid to UNRWA, because they know that there are security implications on the ground,” said @elgindy_. “This doesn’t seem to be a factor in the Trump administration’s thinking.” By @MazMHussain https://t.co/peaH7gK8qI
— Kat Moon (@katxmoon) August 30, 2018
According to UNRWA counts, the total number of Palestinian refugees demanding the right of return is currently 5.3 million Palestinians.
The US administration is also cutting other aid to the Palestinians, including over $200 million that provide Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank with medical assistance and other humanitarian services.
This is Malek Mahmoud Al-Louh from #Gaza.
Today was the first day of school for students. Malek went to the school like the rest of the kids before he found himself been taken out of @UNRWA school "Cause he is not a refugee" as they claimed.
Malek didn't attend his class today. pic.twitter.com/diXQHzaRmI
— ??Mohammed Baroud?? (@MohammedBaroud9) August 29, 2018
A senior US State Department official said:
“Those funds will now address high-priority projects elsewhere.”
The move to end funding to UNRWA "was pushed hardest by Jared Kushner." https://t.co/bWYLxuE4Xz
— Jacob Kornbluh ?? (@jacobkornbluh) August 31, 2018
The drastic aid cut is expected to cause a deterioration in the humanitarian situation in the besieged Gaza Strip, where nearly 2 million Palestinians are packed into the coastal enclave that suffers deep economic hardship.
It is noteworthy that UNRWA currently faces a budget deficit of $270 million, which would force the agency to suspend its activities by the end of September, as it could cause serious consequences regarding the humanitarian situation and will negatively affect the stability of the region.
(Ma’an, PC, Social Media)