US denies cutting aid to Palestinian refugee agency

The State Department denied a report that the Trump administration froze a payment of $125 million to the UN agency for Palestinian “refugees.”

By: and World Israel News Staff

The US State Department has denied a report that $125 million in American funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has been frozen.

The Axios news website reported last Friday that the US payment to UNWRA—representing one-third of America’s annual contribution to the UN refugee agency solely dedicated to the Palestinians—was due to arrive on Jan.1, but was halted.

Earlier last week, President Donald Trump threatened to cut off aid to the Palestinians for their refusal to negotiate with Israel.

An unnamed State Department official told Reuters that the Axios report “is very misleading. Just because they were expecting the money on the first, and they did not get it at that time, does not mean it was suspended or canceled.”

UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness said the agency had not been notified of a formal US decision on funding.

Last week, as part of a series of tweets on US foreign aid, Trump wrote that “with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated Sunday during the weekly cabinet meeting that he “supports President Trump’s critical approach and believes that practical steps should be taken to change the situation in which UNRWA perpetuates the Palestinian refugee problem instead of resolving it.”

“This is an agency that was established 70 years ago, only for Palestinian refugees, at a time when the UNHCR (the UN refugee agency) deals with global refugee problems. Of course this creates a situation in which there are great-grandchildren of refugees, who are not refugees but who are cared for by UNRWA, and another 70 years will pass and those great-grandchildren will have great-grandchildren and therefore, this absurdity needs to stop,” the Israeli premier added.

Netanyahu offered a proposal: “UNRWA support funds need to be gradually shifted to the UNHCR, with clear criteria for supporting genuine refugees, not fictitious refugees as happens today under UNRWA.”

“I have brought this position to the attention of the US. This is how to rid the world of UNRWA and deal with genuine refugee problems, to the extent that such remain,” he concluded.

The US is the largest foreign funder of the PA and UNRWA.