The Israeli government applauded the U.S. decision to stop funding the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), an organization accused of perpetuating the Middle East conflict.
“Israel supports the U.S. move,” said an official from the Prime Minister’s Office.
“Consolidating the status of Palestinian refugees is one of the problems that perpetuates the conflict.
The Trump Administration announced that it will no longer fund the agency, which it has supported for decades. Instead, it will seek other ways to assist the Palestinians.
All the world’s refugees are under the care of the UNHCR or the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). With the exception of Palestinian refugees, who have been under the care of UNRWA for seventy years.
UNWRA (unlike UNHCR) works with a definition that grants refugee status to the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc. of the original refugees. Thus, of the 30,000 to 50,000 original Palestinian refugees estimated to be living today (out of the 700,000 in 1948), UNRWA counts five million people in this category. Congressman Yair Lapid has called the latter “fake refugees”.
The Trump Administration has criticized UNRWA for its twisted criteria, saying that as a bottomless barrel, it is an organization that grows every year in an inflationary way without limits, with ” deceptive practices “.
The United States traditionally contributed one third of UNRWA’s funding, which amounted to $1.1 billion in 2017.
Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas and his subordinates have blasted the Trump Administration’s decision and threatens to contest it at the UN General Assembly. But because UNRWA funding comes almost exclusively from voluntary contributions from UN member states, it is not unclear how they could alter Washington’s sovereign decision.
Meanwhile, Israeli defense establishment sources fear that efforts to weaken UNRWA could strengthen the Islamic terrorist group Hamas in Gaza and the West Bank and endanger Israel’s security.
UNRWA’s budget cuts are reportedly expected to create a gap in the provision of basic services in the Strip, where most of its inhabitants depend on the organization. This could translate into food shortages and the collapse of the education system, which could be used by Hamas to further strengthen its totalitarian control over the coastal enclave.