WASHINGTON—The United States has decided to operate a major cut in its funding of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
The State Department said Tuesday that it had put a hold on $65 million of the $125 million now due to UNRWA, which distributes its assistance in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, as well as to refugee camps in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
“There is a need to undertake a fundamental re-examination of UNRWA, both in the way it operates and the way it is funded,” a U.S. official said.
The move by the Trump administration comes amid deteriorating relations between the U.S. and the Palestinian Authority (PA). In a speech on Sunday at the PLO Central Council in Ramallah, PA President Mahmoud Abbas slammed Trump’s attempts to jumpstart peace negotiations as well as America’s recent recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, saying it was a “slap in the face” and vowing to “slap back.” In the speech, he targeted Trump personally by calling for his “house to be destroyed.”
Israeli politicians and Jewish American groups decried Abbas’speech as a racist diatribe that revealed Abbas’s true colors. The speech included conspiracy theories and fundamental questioning of the existence and justification for a Jewish state.
US President Donald Trump and the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley had threatened to cut the UNWRA funding after the Palestinian Authority walked away from an attempt to revive the peace talks with Israel, citing among other factors Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danon lauded the US decision.
“UNRWA has proven time and again to be an agency that misuses the humanitarian aid of the international community and instead supports anti-Israel propaganda, perpetuates the plight of Palestinian refugees and encourages hate,” he said.
“Just over the last year alone, UNRWA officials were elected to the leadership of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, UNRWA schools denied the existence of Israel, and terror tunnels were dug under UNRWA facilities. It is time for this absurdity to end and for humanitarian funds to be directed towards their intended purpose—the welfare of refugees,” Danon added.