Cutting Palestinian aid for political purposes 'outrageous': NRC

Cutting Palestinian aid for political purposes 'outrageous': NRC
3 min read
11 January, 2018
"Cutting funds to UNRWA will achieve nothing except push millions of Palestinians further into poverty and despair," warned NRC Secretary General Jan Egeland.
Israel has welcomed Trump's proposition to cut aid to UNRWA [Getty]

Washington's threat to cut aid to UNRWA for "political purposes" could push Palestinians further into poverty, warned the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).

NRC Secretary General Jan Egeland warned that the most vulnerable Palestinians, including those in refugee camps across the region, will be at most risk because of US threats to cut aid to the Palestinian refugee agency.

"Threatening to cut aid for political purposes to millions of civilians who need it is what we've come to expect of undemocratic regimes, not the world's biggest humanitarian donor," Egeland said in a statement on Wednesday. 

"Cutting funds to UNRWA will achieve nothing except push millions of Palestinians further into poverty and despair, taking food from their tables, the roofs above their heads, and the schools they send their children to," he warned.

"Other humanitarian organisations simply do not have the capacity to pick up the pieces if this decision goes through. And it would all fall on Israel, as the occupying power, as well as the governments of Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, to do so."

He added: "Cutting much-needed aid to refugees because Palestinian leaders have positions the US disagrees with is outrageous."

Last Tuesday, US President Donald Trump admitted the Middle East peace process was in difficulty and threatened to cut US aid to Palestinians, currently worth more than $300 million a year.

"We pay the Palestinians HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect," he tweeted. 

"With the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?"

It was not immediately clear whether Trump was threatening all of the budget, worth $319 million in 2016, according to US government figures.

Trump's move has been welcomed by Tel Aviv.

"UNRWA is an organisation that perpetuates the Palestinian refugee problem," Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said while also lauding Trump at the beginning of his weekly cabinet meeting.

He said that while millions of other refugees around the world were cared for by the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Palestinians have their own body which also treats "great-grandchildren of refugees - who aren't refugees".

"This absurd situation must be ended," Netanyahu said.

UNRWA runs hundreds of schools for Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip, the occupied West Bank, Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.

It also distributes aid and provides teacher training centres, health clinics and social services.

Many analysts, including Israelis, warn that closing the agency without having an effective replacement could lead to further poverty and perhaps violence.