Responding to the December decision by President Trump and his Administration to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to begin the process of moving the U.S. Embassy there, the Palestinian Authority rejected the U.S. decision and announced that it would no longer accept the U.S. as a mediator for peace talks. The Administration subsequently threatened to cut off U.S. aid to the Palestinians.
In response to the U.S. Jerusalem announcement, an earlier paper, “Toward Peace, Justice, and Equality in Israel and Palestine” from 15 U.S. Christian organizations was resent to members of Congress The paper states, “Neither Israelis, Palestinians, or those of us in the U.S. will ultimately benefit from structures and approaches that reinforce inequality and injustice.”
The U.S. announcement on Jerusalem was reckless and one-sided. The fact that Palestinians would reject it is understandable, and threatening an aid cut off is only adding insult to injury.
These actions by the Administration – which undermine prospects for peace, threaten to harm security for both Israelis and Palestinians, and could lead to making daily life even harder for Palestinians – must be opposed.
U.S. aid to the Palestinians includes bilateral assistance for programs in the West Bank and Gaza and annual contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). Although it was unclear which aid would be targeted by the Administration, widespread concern that it would include UNRWA was borne out when a State Department letter announced that only $60 million of a $125 million dollar funding installment would be released, with conditions placed on any further releasing of U.S. funds to UNRWA.
U.S. support for UNRWA amounts to about one-third of the agency’s annual budget. Ending this assistance would have disastrous consequences for the Palestinian refugees who depend on it.
UNRWA assistance reaches roughly five million Palestinian refugees living in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. Services include, “education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, microfinance and emergency assistance, including in times of armed conflict.” UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness warned that half a million Palestinian children will suffer if UNRWA cannot deliver its services.
At its core, the Palestinian refugee issue is one of rights continually denied, specifically the fundamental right to return to their lands and homes. This underlying core issue must be addressed. In the meantime, UNRWA services are critical to the welfare of millions of Palestinians.
The U.S. announcement on Jerusalem placed the U.S. clearly on one side and showed disregard for the rights and needs of the Palestinian people. The threat to cut off U.S. funding is one more step in the wrong direction.
Contact your members of Congress today! Ask them to:
-Support constructive political action to achieve a just and lasting peace that will include a fair resolution to all outstanding Israeli and Palestinian concerns including the status of Jerusalem and the rights of Palestinian refugees.
-Advocate for the U.S. administration to reverse its decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to begin the process of moving the Embassy there.
-Reject any cuts to U.S. funding for UNRWA.
Following Jerusalem announcement, churches reiterate call for peace, justice, and equality, Global Ministries of the United Church of Christ and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), 12/13/17
What would happen if Trump cuts UNRWA funding?, Middle East Eye, 1/3/18
Trump administration split on cutting aid to Palestinian refugees, Washington Post, 1/9/18
White House ‘reviewing’ aid to Palestinians after threats to slash funds, Times of Israel, 1/5/18
Nikki Haley’s Diplomacy of Revenge Targets U.N. Relief Agency, Foreign Policy, 1/5/18