(January 8, 2018 / JNS)
The U.S. 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 U.S. payment to UNWRA—representing one-third of America’s annual contribution to the U.N. refugee agency that is 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 1st, 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 U.S. decision on funding.
Last week, as part of a series of tweets on U.S. 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’s office stated that the Israeli leader “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.”
The U.S. is the largest foreign funder of the PA and UNRWA.