Democratic lawmakers protest US cut in aid to UNRWA

Democratic congressmen argue that the US cut in aid to the Palestinians is dangerous and counterproductive.

By: World Israel News Staff

One-hundred-and-twelve members of the US House of Representatives, mostly Democrats, sent a letter to the Trump administration protesting its recent move to cut all funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

In a letter addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the congressmen claimed that the cut in aid is dangerous and counterproductive.

“These steps not only threaten the stability of the region; they also undercut the US’s ability to facilitate negotiations that will result in a viable two-state solution to the conflict,” the letter, authored by Reps. David E. Price (D-NC), Peter Welch (D-VT) and Adam Smith (D-WA), states.

“The administration’s decisions, whether or not intended to pressure Palestinian leadership back to the negotiating table, are counterproductive to facilitating negotiations or pursuing peace, stability and security,” they charged.

The State Department announced in August that the US, the largest contributor to UNRWA with $350 million in annual aid, will make no additional contributions to the agency.

Explaining the dramatic move, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said that “when we made a US contribution of $60 million in January, we made it clear that the United States was no longer willing to shoulder the very disproportionate share of the burden of UNRWA’s costs that we had assumed for many years.”

“The fundamental business model and fiscal practices that have marked UNRWA for years – tied to UNRWA’s endlessly and exponentially expanding community of entitled beneficiaries – is simply unsustainable and has been in crisis mode for many years. The United States will no longer commit further funding to this irredeemably flawed operation,” she added.

Among the reasons for the US decision cited in Nauert’s statement were “the failure of UNRWA and key members of the regional and international donor community to reform and reset the UNRWA way of doing business” and UNRWA’s “endlessly crisis-driven service provision model.”

The left-wing J Street organization, which published the letter, stated that it “strongly supports the Representatives’ leadership in opposing the cuts, which exacerbate suffering, threaten Israel’s security and undermine the United States’ ability to serve as a credible mediator in the Middle East.”

Thirty-four senators sent a similar letter, which, according to J Street, shows that “Congress does not support the president’s extreme policies towards Israel and the Palestinians.”

“This administration’s reckless actions can and must eventually be reversed — and replaced with policies that promote Israelis’ and Palestinians’ shared aspirations for a secure and peaceful future,” J Street demanded.

However, Israel welcomed the US decision, deeming it a big step towards peace that has historically operated as a “refugee perpetuation agency.”

“The US has done a very important thing by halting the financing for the refugee perpetuation agency known as UNRWA. It is finally beginning to resolve the problem,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu underscored, saying that the “funds must be taken and used to genuinely help rehabilitate the refugees, the true number of which is much smaller than the number reported by UNRWA. This is a welcome and important change and we support it.”