Last Friday, the State Department announced the U.S. was cutting more than $200 million in bilateral aid to the Palestinians, following a review of the funding for projects in the West Bank and Gaza. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ spokesman called that U.S. decision an attempt to force the Palestinians to abandon their claim to Jerusalem.
Speaking before the announcement on UNRWA, its representative in Washington, Elizabeth Campbell, said the withdrawal of U.S. funding would leave the agency facing a financial crisis, but noted that Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and others have provided more than $200 million in new funding to help cover its budget this year.
In recent days, senior Trump administration officials publicly expressed dissatisfaction with UNRWA but stopped short of saying the U.S. would defund the agency.
On Tuesday, Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said that “Palestinians continue to bash America” although it’s the main donor for UNRWA. Speaking at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank, Haley also said, “we have to look at right of return” of those classified as Palestinian refugees. She called on Middle East nations to increase aid.
The U.S. decision on UNRWA provoked strong and polarized reactions in Washington.
Richard Goldberg, senior adviser at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, called it “a win for U.S. taxpayers and peace” that would make Palestinians more self-sufficient and prepare them “for a true peace with Israel.”