Published: Wed, January 10, 2018
Health | By Jay Jacobs

PM Netanyahu Backs Trump's Critique Of Palestinian UN Aid Agency

PM Netanyahu Backs Trump's Critique Of Palestinian UN Aid Agency

On Friday, in a report denied by a State Department official, the Axios news site said Washington had frozen $125 million in funding for UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East].

He added that the current United States administration wants to impose dictates on Palestinian leadership by adopting the Israeli position, in order to liquidate the Palestinian cause by demanding the dismantling of UNRWA, cutting aid, starving refugees and closing schools.

Netanyahu voiced a common Israeli criticism that UNRWA was created specifically for the Palestinians, while the UNHCR deals with the rest of the world's refugees. Netanyahu said on Sunday that UNRWA's existence "perpetuates the problem of the Palestinian refugees", claiming that the Palestinian right of return aims at eliminating Israel. "And 70 more years will pass and they will have great-grandchildren, so this absurdity must be stopped", he said.

Israel is deeply critical of UNRWA, charging that the organization harbors terrorists and perpetuates the Palestinian "refugee" problem indefinitely, thus blocking a potential resolution to the conflict.

The Arab League could face inner division as it works to undo President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. The Palestinians have strongly protested the decision, and Trump has threatened to take action against those who challenged him. Privately, it understands that US support for both UNRWA and the Palestinian Authority is in Israel's interest because it maintains the status quo and alleviates a financial burden for Israel. Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem in the 1967 6-Day war. Critics have warned that thousands of children could turn to Hamas schools, for example, if UNRWA schools are forced to close.

"Should UNRWA disappear, Israel, the occupying power in the West Bank and Gaza, which is legally charged with the well-being of the civilian population in the territory, would assume greater responsibility for the over 2 million refugees in the territory which UNRWA supports", Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, told Newsweek.

The United States is the largest donor to UNRWA, with a pledge of almost $370 million as of 2016, according to the organization's website. "This needs to be resolved by the parties to the conflict in the context of peace talks", he said.

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