In the wake of the U.S. announcement it has immediately withdrawn from its role as the largest donor to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, the European Union took less than 24 hours to assert its own role as the “largest contributor” to the agency’s budget.”
Schools for “hundreds of thousands of Palestinian children” are reopening this weekend, said the European Union spokesperson Maja Kocijancic, “thanks to the work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East . . . and thanks to the many nations around the world who support and fund UNRWA’s activities.”
In what was clearly intended to be a direct swipe at the United States, Kocijancic continued, “The EU and its Member States are collectively the largest contributors to UNRWA’s budget, and we are proud to support UNRWA’s work in providing essential services to Palestine refugees.
“This is why the EU will continue its assistance to the Palestinians, including its support to UNRWA’s activities, while we will also continue our efforts to reach a two-state solution – a solution that will include the issue of refugees, which is a final status issue that only the two parties can resolve through negotiations, with the support of the international community.
“The regrettable decision of the U.S. to no longer be part of this international and multilateral effort leaves a substantial gap and we hope that the U.S. can reconsider their decision,” the statement continued.
The U.S. have always played, and will continue to play an essential role in any effort to achieve peace in the Middle East. The EU will continue to engage with the U.S. and its other regional and international partners to work towards that common goal,” the statement added.
It’s not likely the United States is going to buckle to European pressure any time soon, however.
The United States made a clean break when it announced its decision Friday not to transfer the final $300 million funding allocation to UNRWA, and said it would no longer support the agency.
In the carefully worded statement explaining the reasons for defunding , U.S. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said that beyond the budget and burden-sharing issues, “the fundamental business model and fiscal practices that have marked UNRWA for years … is simply unsustainable and has been in crisis mode for many years.
“We are very mindful of and deeply concerned regarding the impact upon innocent Palestinians, especially school children, of the failure of UNRWA and key members of the regional and international donor community to reform and reset the UNRWA way of doing business,” the U.S. contends.
“These children are part of the future of the Middle East.
“Palestinians, wherever they live, deserve better than an endlessly crisis-driven service provision model. They deserve to be able to plan for the future.”
Nauert added that the U.S. is planning to intensify talks with the UN, host governments and other stakeholders about new ways to address the issue.
Those could include, she said, “direct bilateral assistance from the United States and other partners” – in other words, the funds are likely to be redirected to where it will do Palestinian Arab recipients more good, with less risk of being stolen by terrorist intermediaries or corrupt politicians.