Days after announcing it was withholding $65 million from a U.N. agency supporting Palestinian refugees, the United States announced it will not provide a separate $45 million it had pledged to the agency, according to the State Department.
As WND reported, the State Department announced Tuesday it is withholding $65 million the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, UNWRA, warning any additional U.S. donations would depend on changes in how the agency operates and is funded. In 2016, the U.S. donated $355 million to UNWRA.
The $45 million allotment was meant for food aid as part of the UNRWA’s West Bank/Gaza Emergency Appeal.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert explained to reporters Thursday that the $45 million was not a guarantee.
“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.
“Money coming in from other countries needs to increase as well to continue paying for all those refugees,” she said, adding that the U.N. agency needs to reform.
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Hanan Ashrawi, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organization, called the State Department’s freezing of funds “cruelty” toward an “innocent and vulnerable population,” Reuters reported.
The Palestinian envoy to Washington, Husam Zomlot, said Palestinian refugees “and children’s access to basic humanitarian services, such as food, health care and education, is not a bargaining chip but a U.S. and international obligation.”
However, noted Islam expert Robert Spencer, director of Jihad Watch, contended the move “is not about cutting food money, contrary to the lies of Husam Zumlot and others.”
“The UNRWA has multiple links to jihad terror. It is a viciously corrupt and dishonest organization, bent on enabling the jihad against Israel and willing to lie brazenly in the process. Every penny of U.S. aid should be withheld from the UNRWA, permanently,” he said.
In August, UNRWA was reported to be under scrutiny by the U.S. Congress and the Israeli Knesset for links to terrorism, with evidence Hamas runs military programs with live weapons for tens of thousands of Palestinian children who attend UNRWA schools.
UNRWA in June was caught using images of a girl in a bombed-out building in Syria in a major global fundraising campaign, falsely claiming the girl was a victim of Israel in Gaza.
On Jan. 2, President Trump tweeted that the U.S. gives the Palestinians “HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect.”
Trump said that “with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?”
Spencer remarked regarding the previous withheld allotment that it is “$65 million that the ‘Palestinians’ won’t have to give to jihad terrorists.”
Trump has vowed to curtail aid to the Palestinians for a number of reasons, including the Palestinian Authority’s payment of “salaries” to convicted terrorists.”
The U.S. contributes about $600 million annually to the PA, totaling more than $5.2 billion since 1994.
WND reported last week a British citizen who was brutally attacked by Palestinian Authority-sponsored terrorists is asking the British Parliament to investigate whether funds the U.K. has provided to the PA are being used to promote terrorism and support jailed terrorists. Israel’s Defense Ministry found that the PA spent a total of $358 million, or about 7 percent of its total annual budget, on terrorist stipends last year.
‘It is time for this absurdity to end’
The U.S. is the largest donor to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, providing nearly 30 percent of its budget. The agency serves some 5 million Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war and their descendants in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
Danny Danon, Israel’s ambassador to the U.N., applauded the curbing of aid to UNRWA by the U.S., arguing the agency uses the money to support propaganda against Israel and maintain the refugee situation for political purposes.
“It is time for this absurdity to end and for humanitarian funds to be directed towards their intended purpose: the welfare of refugees,” Danon said in a statement.
Israel accuses the U.N. agency of aiding and abetting Palestinian terrorism and asserts UNRWA’s staff betray bias against Israel.
State Department spokeswoman Nauert said other nations need to share some of the financial burden.