November 16, 2018

U.S. to End UNRWA Funding, Reduce Refugee Status of Palestinians

The Trump administration plans on ending all funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and advocating for the number of Palestinians designated as refugees substantially, according to The Washington Post.

Within the next few weeks, the administration will officially make the aforementioned announcement and state they are ceasing funding to UNRWA until the agency is reformed. The U.S. had been providing about a third of UNRWA’s $1.1 billion budget.

United States Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley explained at an August 28 Foundation for Defense Democracies (FDD) event that the Palestinian Authority (PA) teaches “anti-Israeli and anti-American things in their textbook,” which was a factor in the Trump administration’s decision to cut UNRWA’s funding from $130 million to $65 million earlier in the year.

“UNRWA had them [the Palestinians] protest in the streets that we didn’t give more,” Haley said.

Haley added that Arab countries need to step up their funding to UNRWA instead.

The Trump administration will call for the number of Palestinians designated as refugees to decline from 5.3 million to less than 500,000, limiting the refugee status to those who were alive at the time the agency was established in 1949.

Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), accused the U.S. of “violating international law” by ending funding to UNRWA.

“There is an international obligation to assist and support it until all the problems of the Palestinian refugees are solved,” Erekat said.

Germany is reportedly preparing to increase their funding to UNRWA in light of the reported U.S. decision to end such funding, according to Haaretz.

Those that support UNRWA argue that it’s necessary to provide aid to displaced Palestinians and help prevent further violence; critics argue that the agency is nothing more than a welfare program for terrorism.