Palestinians welcome resumption of US aid to UNRWA

In 2018, the Donald Trump-led US administration had stopped humanitarian aid to the UN agency which caters to the need of 5.7 million Palestinian refugees in the occupied territories and beyond

April 08, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
Prime minister Mohammad Shtayyeh. Photo : Wafa News Agency

The Palestinian Authority, on Wednesday, April 7, welcomed the US government’s announcement to resume humanitarian aid to the United Nation Relief and Work Agency in the Near East (UNRWA). The humanitarian aid by the US to the UN refugee agency for Palestinians was stopped in 2018 by the Donald Trump administration.   

US secretary of state Anthony Blinken issued a statement on Wednesday which said that the US will provide USD 150 million in aid to UNRWA which caters to the needs of more than 5 million Palestinian refugees in the occupied West Bank, Gaza and in countries such as Lebanon and Jordan. These Palestinians were forced to leave their land and homes during the Nakba, the catastrophic violence unleashed by Israeli armed groups in 1948 during the creation of the state of Israel. 

Blinken also announced an additional USD 75 million development assistance for the occupied West Bank and Gaza strip, apart from promising USD 10 million for “peace building programs” in the region through the US Agency for International Development (USAID). 

UNRWA commissioner general Philippe Lazzarini welcomed the move saying that the financial assistance will help the agency to efficiently carry forward its multifaceted work among the Palestinians, particularly at the time of COVID-19 outbreak.  

The Donald Trump administration had stopped humanitarian aid to Palestinians in 2018 and severed diplomatic relations with the Palestinian Authority. Joe Biden had promised during his election campaign to reverse some of these decisions once in power.

Commenting on the statement, prime minister of the Palestinian Authority Mohammad Shtayyeh said that, “we are just not looking forward to a resumption of US financial support, but for the establishment of a strong political relations” which will help to achieve “inalienable rights of our people including independence of Palestine with Jerusalem as its capital.” He also asked the US to pressurize Israel to stop its expansion of illegal settlement activities in the occupied territories.

The Joe Biden administration, however, has refused to reverse Donald Trump’s decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognize it as Israel’s capital, and has not made its positions clear on several other crucial issues related to the Palestinian right to self-determination. 

Jerusalem is not recognized as Israel’s capital by the UN and most of the countries in the world as it is a territory occupied by Israel since the 1967 war. Biden has also not made any clear policy statement about Israeli settlement activities in the occupied territories. The international community, including the US, consider the Israeli settlements inside the Palestinian territories as illegal. However, the Trump administration tried to recognize Israeli settlements by proposing their annexation into proper Israel in Trump’s so called peace proposals last year which was rejected by Palestinians and most of the world community.