The Trump administration announced Tuesday it is withholding $65 million for Palestinian refugees, demanding that the U.N. agency that supports them make major reforms.
The State Department notified the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, UNWRA, that any additional U.S. donations will depend on changes in how the agency operates and is funded.
The State Department said, however, it was releasing the rest of the installment, $60 million, to ensure the agency won’t run out of cash by the end of the month and be forced to shut down.
In 2016, the U.S. donated $355 million to UNWRA.
The curb in funding comes after President Trump tweeted Jan. 2 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?”
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Robert Spencer, director of Jihad Watch, commented that the withheld money is “$65 million that the ‘Palestinians’ won’t have to give to jihad terrorists.”
The Associated Press reported Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., wanted a complete cutoff of funding until the Palestinians resume peace talks with Israel. But Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis and others have argued that ending all assistance would exacerbate instability in the Mideast.”
Spencer said Haley is right, arguing that “everything we do to oppose the jihad will ‘exacerbate instability in the Mideast.'”
“This veiled threat has guided U.S. policy in the region for far too long,” Spencer insisted. “Essentially it amounts to bowing to violent intimidation, which only encourages more violent intimidation.”
President 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 Heather Nauert said other nations need to share some of the financial burden.
“We don’t believe that taking care of other nations and other people have to be solely the United States’ responsibility,” she said.