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U.S. will again provide financial assistance to Palestinians




UNRWA provides schooling for Palestinian refugees (photo UNRWA/Taghrid Mohammad)
UNRWA provides schooling for Palestinian refugees (photo UNRWA/Taghrid Mohammad)
PALESTINE / UNITED STATES. The Joe Biden administration decided on Wednesday evening, April 8, 2021, to reopen the floodgates of aid to Palestine, despite the unfavorable opinion of Israel. 235 million (€198 million) will be allocated to the overall budget of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which finances the operation of more than 700 schools and nearly 150 health clinics (8.5 million consultations per year).

Gilad Erdan said he was disappointed by this announcement and wanted to make it conditional on "certain reforms, including the cessation of incitement to violence and the removal of anti-Semitic content from educational programs. In a statement, Israel's ambassador to the United States said that "Israel strongly opposes the anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic activities that take place within UNRWA structures. We strongly believe that this UN agency for so-called 'refugees' should not exist in its current form. UNRWA schools regularly use materials inciting violence against Israel and the devious definition used by the agency to define who is a 'refugee' only perpetuates the conflict."

After the 2017 unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and the transfer of its embassy to the city, Donald Trump had cut off all subsidies to Palestine in 2018, even though the U.S. was the UN agency's largest donor. "U.S. aid to the Palestinian people serves U.S. interests and values. It provides critical assistance to those in need, promotes economic development, and supports Israeli-Palestinian dialogue, security coordination, and stability," comments U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

 

UNRWA supports 5.7 million Palestinian refugees

Of the $235 million package, $150 million (€126 million) will go to fund UNRWA, $75 million (€63 million) to economic development in the West Bank and Gaza and $10 million (€8.4 million) to the peace process.

Mohammed Shtayyeh, Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, says he "looks forward not only to the resumption of financial aid, but also to the return of political relations with the United States, in a way that allows our Palestinian people to fulfill their legitimate rights to establish an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital." On Wednesday, April 7, 2021 during a meeting with Jordanian King Abdullah II, Joe Biden confirmed his support for a two-state solution, unlike his predecessor who excluded it in the peace plan presented at the end of January 2020. The new U.S. president will also allow the reopening in Washington of the offices of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), closed by Donald Trump.

"The United States is pleased to resume its support for UNRWA's services, including the education of more than 500,000 Palestinian boys and girls, bringing hope and stability," emphasizes Antony Blinken. According to a statement from the agency, "these funds will be used for food, emergency cash assistance, emergency health, mental health and psychosocial support, education in emergencies, protection, water and sanitation, and response to the Covid-19 epidemic."

"No other agency does what UNRWA does, and we are committed to protecting the safety, health and future of the millions of refugees we serve. The U.S. contribution comes at a critical time as we continue to adapt to the challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic. We encourage all member states to contribute to UNRWA," said Philippe Lazzarini, Commissioner General of UNRWA, Switzerland.

Established in 1949 by the UN General Assembly and with headquarters in Amman, Jordan and Gaza, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees supports some 5.7 million Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip. This aid includes education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvements, protection and microfinance. It has recorded a liability of $75 million (€63 million) in 2020.
In February 2021, UNRWA launched a $1.5bn (€1.26bn) appeal to meet its funding needs for essential services ($806m), emergency humanitarian assistance ($231m), support to Palestinians affected by the Syrian conflict in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon ($318m) and priority projects ($170m) in 2021.

 

Eric Apim


Thursday, April 8th 2021



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