The Trump administration is preparing to withhold tens of millions of dollars from UNRWA, the UN agency for “Palestinian refugees”, U.S. officials told The Associated Press on Sunday.
The officials said President Donald Trump is planning on cutting the year’s first contribution by more than half or perhaps entirely, and making additional donations contingent on major changes to the organization.
While he hasn’t made a final decision, he appears more likely to send only $60 million of the planned $125 million first installment to UNRWA, said the officials, who weren’t authorized to publicly discuss the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Future contributions would require the agency to demonstrate significant changes in operations, they said, adding that one suggestion under consideration would require the Palestinian Authority (PA) to first re-enter peace talks with Israel.
Trump hinted two weeks ago the United States may withhold future aid payments to UNRWA over what he called the PA unwillingness to talk peace with Israel.
Later, a meeting took place in the White House discussing the cutting of aid to the PA and to UNRWA.
The State Department said Sunday that “the decision is under review. There are still deliberations taking place.”
The White House did not immediately respond to questions about the matter.
The administration could announce its decision as early as Tuesday, the officials told AP. The plan to withhold some of the money is backed by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis, who offered it as a compromise to demands for more drastic measures by UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, the officials said.
Haley wants a complete cutoff in U.S. money until the PA resumes peace talks with Israel that have been frozen for years. Tillerson, Mattis and others say ending all assistance would exacerbate instability in the Middle East, notably in Jordan.
UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness warned on Friday that the organization losing significant funding from its largest donor, the United States, could be “catastrophic” for Palestinian Arabs.
For years, UNRWA has been a target for criticism in light of Hamas’s activity in its educational institutions and the use of its facilities by Palestinian Arab terrorist organizations in Gaza.
UNRWA was documented storing Hamas rockets and weapons “designed to kill Israeli citizens” in its schools, a fact which the UNRWA chief admitted himself.
In addition, the organization has actively taken part in inciting anti-Semitic violence.