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Aid for millions of Palestinians hostage to politics

20 January, 2018, 08:10 | Author: Kristen Ingram
  • Displaced children in a UN-run school in the Shujaiyeh neighbourhood

Palestinians, already angered by U.S. President Donald Trump's December 6, denounced the decision, which could deepen hardship in the Gaza Strip where UNRWA helps much of its population of two million.

De Croo said the Belgian government stepped up in response to the urgent call for help by the commissioner-general of UNRWA, an agency that provides humanitarian help to millions of Palestinian refugees.

The Middle East Forum (MEF), an organization promoting American interests through activist, intellectual, and philanthropic efforts, has offered UNRWA $1 million - in exchange for the fulfillment of several conditions.

"The reduced contribution also impacts regional security at a time when the Middle East faces multiple risks and threats, notably that of further radicalization", he said.

UNRWA also warned it was undergoing the "most severe funding crisis in the history of the agency".

Former UN Undersecretary General and current Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council Jan Egeland noted that the funding cut will have devastating consequences for vulnerable Palestinian refugee children who depend on the agency for their education.

Trump's aides initially debated whether to cut off all UNRWA aid, an unidentified US official said, but those opposed argued that could further destabilize the region.

Though the State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said the move was not made to pressure Palestinians to enter negotiations, Trump suggested otherwise in a series of tweets just weeks before the decision.

In a statement, MEF President Daniel Pipes said, "Despite UNRWA's long record of misbehavior: incitement against Israel, supporting violent attacks on Jews, and corruption, we are prepared to help UNRWA, conditional on it making some reforms".

Few weeks ago the USA president tweeted that his government gives the Palestinians "HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect", and further suggesting that his country would cut aid to the Palestinian leadership and to United Nations agencies supporting it unless the Palestinians engage in pro-Israel peace talks backed by Washington and its oil-rich Arab states Saudi Arabia and UAE.

Krahenbuhl said UNRWA was searching for new sources of support, but that hundreds of thousands of students relied on the agency.

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said in a Twitter post on Tuesday that Washington was "holding Palestinian kids' humanitarian needs hostage to political agendas".

The agency allows refugee status to be passed down from generation to generation and does not remove people from its list who have gained citizenship elsewhere, contributing to an ever expanding population and questions as to who qualifies as a refugee.

The last talks collapsed in 2014, partly because of Israel's opposition to an attempted unity pact between the Fatah and Hamas Palestinian factions and to Israeli settlement building on occupied land that Palestinians seek for a state, among other factors.

Belgium, together with other European Union member states, is now UNRWA's largest donor.

"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", said Danny Danon, Israel's ambassador to the United Nations. "UNRWA will not give up either", Krahenbuhl said.

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