Biden admin continues UNRWA support despite congressional ban, State Department says

Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.), a critic of UNRWA, said the Biden administration is trying to circumvent Congress’s ban on UNRWA funding.

By Adam Kredo, The Washington Free Beacon

The Biden administration continues to diplomatically support the United Nations’ chief Palestinian aid organization and is working behind the scenes with several nations to support its work in the Gaza Strip, even after Congress barred the American government from awarding taxpayer dollars to the group, the State Department told the Washington Free Beacon.

A State Department spokesman praised the “critical role” the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) “plays in the delivery of humanitarian assistance in Gaza,” and said the United States is coordinating with countries that have not paused funding for the group following revelations that its employees participated in Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

“We continue to coordinate with other donors, both those that have suspended funding and those continuing to fund UNRWA, as we continue to work to address the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza,” the State Department spokesman said.

“While we will continue to provide funding to organizations like the World Food Programme, we will be looking to other donors to continue to provide critical funding to UNRWA as long as our funding remains paused.”

The Biden administration paused millions in taxpayer funding to UNRWA in January, after it became clear that at least a dozen of the aid group’s employees participated in Hamas’s Oct. 7 terror strike on Israel.

Israel estimates that at least 10 percent of UNRWA’s workforce is affiliated with the terror group. Congress extended the funding pause earlier this month, barring the United States from restarting aid for at least a year.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.), a critic of UNRWA, said the Biden administration is trying to circumvent Congress’s ban on UNRWA funding.

“It’s troubling the Biden administration is trying to flout Congress’s ban on UNRWA funding by urging other countries to continue supporting an organization that employed known terrorists,” Cotton told the Free Beacon.

“We should be supporting Israel in its fight to eliminate Hamas for good, not resupplying terrorists.”

The Biden administration’s diplomatic support for UNRWA appears to have motivated several countries to resume funding. Japan announced on Friday it will resume aid to UNRWA, while France confirmed the same on Thursday. Sweden, Finland, and Canada also recently reversed their funding moratorium.

The State Department would “not publicly discuss content of our private diplomatic conversations” surrounding UNRWA, but told the Free Beacon that “funding for Palestinian civilians is a team effort.”

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Pressed on the issue during Thursday’s press briefing, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said the United States must find other ways to support UNRWA’s work after Congress banned funding until 2025.

“We have always made clear that we support the work that UNRWA does, and we have always made clear that it’s important that that work not be interrupted, even though we were—we thought it was appropriate on behalf of the United States to suspend our funding,” Miller said.

“Now, of course, that funding has been blocked going forward. So we have engaged with other countries about different ways to ensure that the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people is not interrupted, that it continues.”