Israel Objects as Biden Reverses Trump Policy, Restores Aid to UNRWA The national Palestinian flag flies at half mast in the centre of the West Bank city of Hebron on November 10, 2020. (Hazem Bader /AFP via Getty Images)
By Brian Freeman | Wednesday, 07 April 2021 05:21 PM
The State Department announced on Wednesday that it is reversing a Trump-era policy and restoring funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), a program for Palestinian refugees.
"The United States is pleased to announce that, working with Congress, we plan to restart U.S. economic, development, and humanitarian assistance for the Palestinian people," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
"This includes $75 million in economic and development assistance in the West Bank and Gaza, $10 million for peace-building programs through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and $150 million in humanitarian assistance for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA)," Blinken said.
The $235 million is in addition to $15 million the US already pledged to give the Palestinians in March.
Blinken said the aid would go to humanitarian assistance such as battling the coronavirus pandemic and basic needs, including food and water.
Blinken also pledged U.S. support for a two-state solution, saying "The US is committed to advancing prosperity, security, and freedom for both Israelis and Palestinians in tangible ways in the immediate term, which is important in its own right, but also as a means to advance towards a negotiated two-state solution."
Israel objected to the U.S. decision to restore aid to UNRWA, warning the Biden administration that it would only help perpetuate the conflict, The Jerusalem Post reported.
"Israel's position is that the organization in its current form perpetuates the conflict and does not contribute to its resolution," Israel's Foreign Ministry said in a statement. "The renewal of UNRWA assistance, therefore, must be accompanied by substantial and necessary changes in the nature, goals and conduct of the organization."
Israel's Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan said he had warned the State Department of the danger of the move, particularly without ensuring that "incitement" and "antisemitic content" are removed from its educational curriculum, saying that “UNRWA schools regularly use materials that incite against Israel.”
The Trump administration had agreed with Israel's position on UNRWA and had halted $350 million in annual contribution and at least $200 million in additional assistance.
The move by the Biden administration restores almost half of that funding.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York he hoped the US restoration of funding would convince other nations to do the same.
“There were a number of countries that had greatly reduced or halted contributions to UNRWA,” Dujarric said. “We hope that the American decision will lead others to rejoin… as UNRWA donors.”