UN Palestinian agency faces 'existential crisis'

Palestinian children hold bread patties during a protest against aid cuts, outside the United Nations’ offices in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip in this file photo.(AFP)
Updated 09 February 2018
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UN Palestinian agency faces 'existential crisis'

UNITED NATIONS:One month after the Trump administration announced a drastic funding cut to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, only one country, Kuwait, has stepped forward to offer additional funding, senior UNRWA officials said Friday.
The United States announced in January that it would give $60 million to UNRWA - a fraction of the more than $350 million annual contribution that it has provided to the agency's budget.
Kuwait stepped in to contribute $900,000 and about 15 donor countries including Sweden and Japan decided to speed up their donations to keep UNRWA afloat, said Peter Mulrean, UNRWA's representative in New York.
But Mulrean told reporters at UN headquarters that the agency was facing an "existential financial crisis" as it seeks to fill the gap from the US funding cut.
The United States is the biggest single donor to UNRWA which provides schools and health clinics to 5.3 million refugees in the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
US Ambassador Nikki Haley last month said the United States would not provide aid to the Palestinians until they agree "to come back to the negotiation table" and reach a peace deal with Israel.
"The US has not yet explained to us the rationale behind its decision on the $60 million," Mulrean said, adding that Washington had not presented any concerns about reforms.
In an interview to Voice of America, Haley said UNRWA needed to be reformed, because they consider "any Palestinian as a refugee" and "what they're teaching in schools is not necessarily the right way to have things run."
UNRWA has been repeatedly accused of promoting anti-Israel sentiment in schools, a charge it has flatly rejected.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will attend a ministerial-level donors' conference for UNRWA to be held next month in Geneva to fill the gap in funding, but it remains unclear if the United States will attend.
UNRWA's director for the West Bank, Scott Andersen, said all of the agency's services remain up and running for the time being, but that the decision had left many Palestinians anxious.
"People are frightened and concerned about what this means for them, their families and their future," he said.


Israel to build 2,500 new settler homes

Many Palestinians regard the announcement of the new settlements as being directly linked to the recent opening of the new US Embassy and the killings in Gaza. (Reuters)
Updated 25 May 2018
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Israel to build 2,500 new settler homes

  • The stark warning comes after Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman confirmed on Thursday that he would seek final approval for 2,500 homes to be built across 30 settlements.
  • They are working to superimpose greater Israel on all of historic Palestine, says Hanan Ashrawi

AMMAN, Jordan: Israel’s decision to build thousands of new homes for settlers in the occupied West Bank has “ended the two-state solution,” according to Palestinian officials.

The stark warning comes after Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman confirmed on Thursday that he would seek final approval for 2,500 homes to be built across 30 settlements. The work is likely to be approved at a planning committee meting next week.

The timing of Lieberman’s announcement is regarded as particularly provocative by Palestinian officials, still angered by the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem and the killing of 60 protesters in Gaza on May 15.

In a statement published by the official Palestinian news agency WAFA, Nabil Abu Rudeina, spokesman for the Palestinian president, said: “The continuation of the settlement policy, statements by American officials supporting settlements, and incitement by Israeli ministers have ended the two-state solution and ended the American role in the region.”

The 2,500 houses, which are illegal under international law, will be spread across the occupied West Bank, with construction work due to begin immediately after approval is granted. The new houses will include 400 dwellings in Ariel, north of Jerusalem, and 460 in Ma’ale Adumim, a city already inhabited by about 40,000 people. Lieberman also said that “in coming months” he would push for the approval of another 1,400 settler houses now in the preliminary stages of planning.

Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) executive committee, said the plans reveal “the real nature of Israeli colonialism, expansionism and lawlessness.”

She said: “Undoubtedly, Israel is deliberately working to enhance its extremist Jewish settler population and to superimpose greater Israel on all of historic Palestine.”

In an appeal to the International Criminal Court earlier this week, the Palestinian Foreign Ministry branded Israeli settlements “the single most dangerous threat to Palestinian lives and livelihoods.” 

Ashrawi called for the legal body to “open an immediate criminal investigation into Israel’s flagrant violations of international law.”

According to a June 2017 article in the liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz, more than 380,000 settlers live in the West Bank, with more than 40 percent based outside official settlements. Many Palestinians regard the announcement of the new settlements as being directly linked to the recent opening of the new US embassy and the killings in Gaza.

Khalil Tufakji, director of the maps and survey department at the Arab Studies Society, a Jerusalem-based NGO, told Arab News that the houses were designed to placate demands from the Israeli rightwing to create “a single state between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River.”