UN Palestinian aid faces funding battle without US help

UNRWA provides services to about 5 million Palestinian refugees across Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank and Gaza. (File/AFP)
Updated 14 March 2019
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UN Palestinian aid faces funding battle without US help

  • Washington’s decision to pull all funding further heightened tensions between the Palestinian leadership and the administration of US President Donald Trump
  • Trump at the time cited US and Israeli criticism of UNRWA’s method of counting people as refugees — which they say has created a growing number of agency beneficiaries

BRUSSELS: The UN agency that supports Palestinian refugees said on Thursday it needed $1.2 billion in funding for 2019 as it faced its first full year without US support.
Pierre Kraehenbuehl, who heads the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinians across the Middle East, said it had had to turn to countries as poor as Afghanistan last year for help after Washington withdrew its funding in August.
“There is no US funding for the first time and no indication that they are reconsidering,” he told Reuters on the margins of a donors conference for Syria.
“I can’t think of a time, even in the 1950s, 60s or 70s, when we were without the US ... they built schools, health centers and that is very important to recognize,” Kraehenbuehl said.
Washington’s decision to pull all funding further heightened tensions between the Palestinian leadership and the administration of US President Donald Trump.
Trump at the time cited US and Israeli criticism of UNRWA’s method of counting people as refugees — which they say has created a growing number of agency beneficiaries.
UNRWA provides services to about 5 million Palestinian refugees across Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank and Gaza. Most are descendants of about 700,000 Palestinians who were driven out of their homes or fled fighting in the 1948 war that led to Israel’s creation.
Gulf states, Norway, Turkey, Japan and Canada stepped in with funding last year, while Afghanistan donated $1 million, Kraehenbuehl said.
He said it was unlikely that all donors would give the same amounts again this year, putting an increased burden on Europe.
Kraehenbuehl said Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and the resulting tensions with the Palestinians, had prompted the US to halt funding to UNRWA.
Kraehenbuehl warned of the risks to 280,000 school children in Gaza who depend on the UN agency.
“Where do they go if they no longer have access to UNRWA education? What happens? We know: the levels of frustration (in the region) will grow,” he said.
“It is crucial to keep children in school to have a personal horizon in the absence of a political horizon,” he said, referring to the stalled Middle East peace process.
Washington’s peace efforts are being led by Jared Kushner, Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law. Kraehenbuehl said he had not been consulted in drawing up the strategy, which has yet to be made public.


Jared Kushner: US to present Middle East peace plan after Ramadan

Updated 11 min 50 sec ago
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Jared Kushner: US to present Middle East peace plan after Ramadan

  • Kushner was speaking at a forum of Time magazine
  • Kushner is a senior adviser to Donald Trump

NEW YORK: President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner said Tuesday that he would present his long-awaited Middle East peace plan after the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan ends in early June.
Kushner, speaking at a forum of Time magazine, said he had hoped to offer the proposal late last year but that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu then called elections and still needs time to form a coalition.
“Once that’s done we’ll probably be in the middle of Ramadan, so we’ll wait until after Ramadan and then we’ll put our plan out,” said Kushner, a senior adviser to Trump.