Netanyahu calls for closure of UN Palestinian refugee agency

A man holds a placard during a protest against U.S. President Donald Trump

Citing "three Western diplomats", Israeli Channel Ten diplomatic correspondent Barak Ravid reported the freeze on Friday at.

But Netanyahu noted that "genuine" Palestinian refugees still need assistance, and proposes that UNRWA funds from the United States should be "gradually shifted" to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, which has "clear criteria for supporting genuine refugees, not fictitious refugees as happens today under UNRWA".

The $125 million, a third of what the United States contributes annually, was supposed to be paid Monday. While Netanyahu apparently does not want to undermine Trump's positions, he "wants to steer bewteen the desire to publicly back Trump and to prevent a disaster in Gaza". The sentiments were echoed by the USA envoy to the UN, Nikki Haley.

"They don't even want to negotiate a long overdue peace treaty with Israel", the USA leader added.

On Friday, reports suggested the USA had already frozen a $125 million grant to UNRWA, which was supposed to be delivered on January 1.

The US is the largest donor to UNRWA, with a pledge of almost $370 million as of 2016, according to the organisation's website.


In the wake of the furious Palestinian reaction to Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and their declaration that the U.S. is no longer an "honest broker" in the peace process, the Trump administration is debating whether to reduce funding to the Palestinian Authority and to UNRWA. "There are still deliberations taking place, and we have until mid January to decide what we are going to do".

On January 3, Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum called the threats to defund UNRWA and the Palestinian Authority "cheap political blackmail" that "reflects American barbaric behavior". He was referring to Trump's tweet last week threatening to cut aid to the Palestinians, including to UNRWA, if the Palestinians do not return to the negotiation table.

This is not the only time Trump threatens to cut U.S. aids sent to developing countries. The refugee question remains a significant obstacle to a two-state solution which aims to forge an independent State of Palestine alongside the State of Israel based on 1967 borders, and which would make East Jerusalem the capital of Palestine. Asked if any preliminary decision had been made, the official replied: "No".

UNRWA was set up in 1949, following the establishment of the state of Israel.

"Should UNRWA disappear, Israel, the occupying power in the West Bank and Gaza, which is legally charged with the well-being of the civilian population in the territory, would assume greater responsibility for the over 2 million refugees in the territory which UNRWA supports", Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, told Newsweek.

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