U.S. resumes funding UN agencies for Palestinian refugees

Washington (AP) —Wednesday, the Biden administration announced the resumption of US support for Palestinians, including the United Nations agency dealing with Palestinian refugees. Almost all of them were eliminated under President Donald Trump.

The State Department said it would provide a total of $ 235 million to projects in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and to the United Nations Rescue Agency (UNRWA). The administration had previously announced $ 15 million for Palestinians to fight the coronavirus pandemic. The resumption of aid met in parliamentary opposition from pro-Israeli lawmakers who said the money could violate US law.

The resumption of assistance was immediately welcomed by the United Nations, UNRWA itself, and Palestinians, and Israel expressed deep concern.

The Associated Press previously reported that the administration had informed Congress of its intention to increase aid to Palestinians, but until Wednesday it had not publicly acknowledged any assistance other than aid to COVID-19. New support will come as the administration consolidates a new Middle East policy that is in many ways the opposite of what Trump pursued.

“We are pleased to announce that the United States will work with Congress to resume US economic, development and humanitarian assistance to Palestinians,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. .. He said the funds included $ 75 million in financial and development assistance on the West Bank and Gaza, $ 10 million for peacebuilding programs, and $ 150 million for UNRWA. Stated.

Blinken sought to prevent congressional criticism by saying, “All aid is provided in accordance with US law,” but Republicans are already preparing to fight aid. The announcement was made on the same day that President Joe Biden called King Abdullah II of Jordan to reaffirm his commitment to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Blinken argued that US support for Palestinians was the key to promoting US interests in the region.

“US foreign aid to Palestinians serves important US interests and values,” he said. “It provides significant relief to those in great need, promotes economic development, supports the understanding of Israel and Palestinians, the coordination and stability of security. It is also the value of our allies and partners. It matches the view and the interests. “

In a statement, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas renewed his commitment to a two-state solution based on international legitimacy and a willingness to respond to international efforts to achieve this goal. I did. “

UN agencies and UN leadership struggling to raise funds welcomed the announcement. “We want others to follow now. There were many countries that drastically reduced or stopped donations to UNRWA. An American decision made others UNRWA donors to UNRWA. We hope to get you back in, “said United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

Meanwhile, Israel frowned on long-standing claims that UNRWA is promoting anti-Semitism and requires major reforms before it can regain support.

“Israel’s position is that the current form of organization perpetuates the conflict and does not contribute to its resolution,” said the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “Renewal of aid to UNRWA should involve substantive and necessary changes in the nature, goals and behavior of the organization.”

The Biden administration did not keep secret the belief that Trump’s approach to the Middle East, which alienated Palestinians, had a flawed and diminished outlook for peace. The new support appears to be aimed at encouraging Palestinians to return to negotiations with Israel, but there are no signs that it will have any effect, and Israel has not yet publicly weighted it.

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley support the elimination of funding for relief agencies, enduring Palestinian poverty, and all the millions of people it serves are actually I questioned whether he was a refugee.

Pompeo accused UNRWA of being “full of concerns about waste, fraud (and) support for terrorism” just a week before his resignation, with less than 200,000 legitimate Palestinian refugees still alive. Said.

In signaling opposition to new funding, pro-Israeli legislators, especially federal law, directly assist the Palestinian Authority as long as they continue to pay benefits to anti-American or anti-American convicted people Or it states that it bans the provision of aid that benefits the PA. Anti-Israeli attack and its family.

Already a handful of Republicans are preparing to challenge aid, claiming it violates the so-called Taylor Force and anti-terrorism clarification laws. Both were passed with strong bipartisan support.

Top Republicans of the House of Representatives and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said the resumption of aid would “damage the interests of the United States.”

Texas Senator Michael McCaul and Senator Jim Riche of Idaho said: “In addition, we are disappointed that the Biden administration has decided to resume funding UNRWA without securing reforms from the organization.”

Resumption of aid did not allow the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office to properly scrutinize all Palestinian funding sources for U.S. anti-terrorism standards between 2015 and 2019, when Trump cut most of them. It will be done just one week after the report is announced. assistance.

The U.S. Agency for International Development has stated that it complies with the law regarding directly funded people and groups, but the same is true for groups called subgranties that they have distributed taxpayer dollars. Did not do. “We recommend steps to improve compliance when funding resumes,” said the GAO report.