US Withholds $65 Million in Palestinian Aid After Trump Threat

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The announcement follows threats by US President Donald Trump earlier this month to cut funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) in a tweet in which he had accused Palestinians of showing "no appreciation". Today, it provides food, education, and other services for more than 5 million Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip, West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, including some 30,000 schoolteachers who serve more than half a million children.

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. She also clarified that the decision is not aimed at punishing anyone and is not a punitive move against the Palestinians.

President Trump reacted on Twitter, noting January 2 "we pay the Palestinians hundreds of millions of dollars a year and get no appreciation or respect". "[W] ith the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?" She said the U.S.is instead asking other governments to "step up to the plate" and increase funding for the agency.

"At stake is the dignity and human security of millions of Palestine refugees in need of emergency food assistance and other support", UNRWA commissioner general Pierre Krahenbuhl said in a statement yesterday.

The State Department said it was releasing the rest of the installment - Dollars 60 million - to prevent the agency from running out of cash by the end of the month and closing down. An official from the United Nations noted that the withholding of such funds for the relief agency would have catastrophic consequences to hundreds of thousands of vulnerable Palestinian nationals.

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It is important to note that the USA contribution to UNRWA represents neither support nor assistance to the Palestinian National Authority, to the Palestinian people in general or the development of the Palestinian economy. In December, the European Union increased funding for the agency, already strapped by increased demand.

The statements suggests that while the US aims to bring the Palestinians to the negotiation table by way of slashing aid, the Palestinians are evaluating other options.

"UNRWA has proven time and again to be an agency that misuses the humanitarian aid of the global community and instead supports anti-Israel propaganda, perpetuates the plight of Palestinian refugees and encourages hate", he said. Some Israelis worry, however, that sharp reductions in such aid could further destabilize the region.

Israel's United Nations envoy Danny Danon said the agency misuses aid and "supports anti-Israel propaganda, perpetuates the plight of Palestinian refugees and encourages hate". "The fact that Palestinians would reject it is understandable, and threatening an aid cutoff is only adding insult to injury".

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