Several international and religious institutions have condemned the United States’ (US) decision to cut all funding to the United Nations’ (UN) agency serving Palestinian refugees.
On Friday, the State Department called the organisation that serves 5 million people “irredeemably flawed.” The move means that Washington will no longer make additional contributions because the United Nations Relief and Works Agency’s (UNRWA) “endlessly and exponentially expanding community of entitled beneficiaries is simply unsustainable and has been in crisis mode for many years,” State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a statement.
Egyptian Foreign Ministry expressed its concerns regarding Trump’s administration decision, stressing in a statement on Saturday Egypt unchangeable stance toward supporting the Palestinian people.
“The American decision came in critical time,” the ministry spokesperson, Ahmed Abu Zeid said, adding that Egypt is keen to communicate with all concerned international parties to support the UNRWA and to solve the issue.
The Arab League’s Assistant Secretary General for the Occupied Palestinian and Arab Lands Saeed Abu Ali condemned the manoeuvre adding that the US has no right to cancel the work of the UNRWA. Abu Ali described the situation as a violation to International Law and decisions of the UN.
He called upon the international community to counter the decision by supporting and financing the UNRWA, in order to allow the agency to continue its activities.
The US is the largest donor to the UNRWA, providing about 30% of its budget. Last year, Washington donated $355mn to the UNRWA, but the Trump administration slashed its contribution, providing only $60mn this year.
The UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness said the decision was “surprising” since the US renewed a funding agreement in December 2017 and rejected the notion that it was irredeemably flawed.
“We reject in the strongest possible terms the criticism that UNRWA’s schools, health centres, and emergency assistance programs are ‘irredeemably flawed,’” Chris Gunness said in a series of Twitter posts.
Stephane Dujarric, a spokesperson for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, said in a statement that the UN regretted the US decision.
“The UNRWA has a strong record of providing high-quality education, health and other essential services, often in extremely difficult circumstances, to Palestine refugees who are in great need,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, an official in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said on condition of anonymity that ‘Israel supports the US move,’ adding that “consolidating the refugee status of Palestinians is one of the problems that perpetuates the conflict.”
The UNRWA said it will struggle to provide services to about 5 million Palestinian refugees if more than a $200 million funding gap is not filled.
The UN agency was formed to provide services to Palestinian refugees displaced by the formation of Israel in 1948. It provides health care, education and social services to Palestinians in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, the West Bank, and Gaza Strip.
A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas described the American move to cut UNRWA funding as the latest “flagrant assault” against Palestinian people.
“The consecutive American decisions represent a flagrant assault against the Palestinian people and a defiance of UN resolutions,” said spokesperson Nabil Abu Rdainah, adding, “such a punishment will not succeed in changing the fact that the United States no longer has a role in the region and that it is not a part of the solution.”