Israel’s Ambassador to the United States and the UN Gilad Erdan on Wednesday protested the US decision to renew its funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
In its most forceful move since the January inauguration to reverse President Donald Trump’s policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Biden administration announced delivering aid in the amount of at least $235 to humanitarian, economic, development, and security, as part of an effort to restore US relations with the Palestinian Authority, which came to a freeze under Trump.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken released a statement on Wednesday, saying that “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. This includes $75 million in economic and development assistance in the West Bank and Gaza, $10 million for peacebuilding 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 added that “the United States is resuming support for UNRWA’s services, including education for over 500,000 Palestinian boys and girls, thereby providing hope and stability in UNRWA’s five fields of operation in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Funding to UNRWA also provides critical COVID-19 assistance, including healthcare, medicine, and medical supplies, as well as cash and food assistance to families severely impacted by COVID-19.”
Finally, Blinken declared: “The United States is deeply committed to ensuring that our partnership with UNRWA promotes neutrality, accountability, and transparency. As with all of our engagements with UN institutions, the United States needs to be at the table to ensure that the reforms advance efficiencies and are in accord with our interests and values.”
In his response, Ambassador Erdan declared:
“Israel is strongly opposed to the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activity happening in UNRWA’s facilities. We believe that this UN agency for so-called ‘refugees’ should not exist in its current format. UNRWA schools regularly use materials that incite against Israel and the twisted definition used by the agency to determine who is a ‘refugee’ only perpetuates the conflict.
“In conversations with the US State Department, I have expressed my disappointment and objection to the decision to renew UNRWA’s funding without first ensuring that certain reforms, including stopping the incitement and removing anti-Semitic content from its educational curriculum, are carried out.
UNRWA is an organization that engages in political advocacy and enables incitement to violence, therefore it should not exist in its current form.”
State Department’s spokesman Ned Price said on Wednesday that the renewed funding was “absolutely consistent” with American law, but at least two US lawmakers, Senator Jim Risch of Idaho and Representative Michael McCaul of Texas, both Republicans, said they were going to see if the aid package does not violate the Taylor Force Act prohibiting economic aid to the Palestinian Authority as long as it pays terrorists behind bars in Israel and the families of dead terrorists. Both lawmakers stated that “resuming assistance to the West Bank and Gaza without concessions from the Palestinian Authority undermines US interests.”