U.S. State Dept. withholds additional $45 million pledged for Palestinian aid

Last month he United States pledged $45 million to the West Bank/Gaza Emergency Appeal, led by the the UN agency in charge of assisting exclusively Palestinian refugees, which just had $65 million withheld from their coffers.

By Reuters & Israel Hayom Staff

 

The United States will not provide $45 million in food aid for Palestinians that it pledged last month as part of the West Bank/Gaza Emergency Appeal led by the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, the U.S. State Department said Thursday.

Earlier this week, the State Department said that Washington would withhold a separate $65 million it had planned to hand over to the U.N. agency that assists Palestinian refugees – UNRWA – making the reinstatement of the aid contingent on unspecified reforms.

UNRWA continues to distribute food to 830,000 refugees in Gaza. – Photo: UNRWA

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert rejected claims that withholding the aid was meant to punish the Palestinians, who have been sharply critical of Trump’s announcement last month that he would move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

In a Dec. 15 letter to UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl, State Department Comptroller Eric Hembree had pledged $45 million to the West Bank/Gaza Emergency Appeal.

“The United States plans to make this funding available to UNRWA in early 2018,” according to the letter, seen by Reuters on Thursday. “An additional letter and contribution package confirming this contribution will be sent by or before early January 2018.”

The Americans clarified that the $45 million was a pledge aimed at helping the agency with “forecasting,” but it was not a guarantee, Nauert told reporters at a regular State Department briefing.

“At this time, we will not be providing that, but that does not mean – I want to make it clear – that does not mean that it will not be provided in the future,” Nauert said.

She repeated the U.S. view that UNRWA needs reform, saying there are a lot more refugees in the program than previously, and that “money coming in from other countries needs to increase as well to continue paying for all those refugees.”

“So we’re asking countries to do more,” Nauert said. “Fundamentally, we just don’t believe that we have to be the chief donor to every organization around the world.”

Despite the decision on the food aid pledge, she said: “We are the most generous country on the planet. We continue to be.”

Trump said in a Twitter post on Jan. 2 that the United States gives the Palestinians hundreds of millions of dollars a year, “but get no appreciation or respect.”

The decisions to curb funding could compound the difficulty in reviving Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. On Tuesday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the U.S. had disqualified itself from continuing as a broker in the long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

 

View original Israel Hayom publication at:
http://www.israelhayom.com/2018/01/19/us-declines-to-pay-45-million-pledged-for-palestinian-food-aid/

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