The administration of US President Joe Biden plans to give $ 235 million, as part of the aid to the Palestinians that Donald Trump has previously ordered to stop.
Two-thirds of the amount will go to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), after it entered an economic crisis following the loss of $ 360 million in US funding in 2018.
Biden wants, through this step, to “restore engagement” of the Palestinians in the long-frozen peace talks with the Israelis.
The Palestinian leadership had accused Trump of being clearly biased towards the Israeli side. He rejected his peace plan, unveiled last year, which recognized Israeli sovereignty over Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the Jordan Valley, as well as recognition of Jerusalem as the “unified capital” of Israel.
Israel occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem in the 1967 war. The international community classifies most of the settlements as illegal.
Who will receive the aid?
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said, “US aid will include $ 75 million to aid the economy and development in Gaza, $ 10 million for peacebuilding programs through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and $ 150 million in humanitarian aid for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.” Palestinian refugees (UNRWA).
The United States will resume security assistance programs with the Palestinians.
In addition to this funding, an amount of 15 million dollars is added to help counter the impact of the Corona pandemic, and the problem of food insecurity in the West Bank and Gaza, which the United States announced last month.
Blinken said that “US foreign assistance to the Palestinian people serves important American interests and values” and “provides crucial relief to those who need it most, promotes economic development, and supports Israeli-Palestinian understanding, security coordination and stability. It is also in line with the values and interests of our allies and partners.”
“The United States is committed to promoting the prosperity, security, and freedom of Israelis and Palestinians in tangible ways in the near term, which is important in and of itself, but also a way to advance toward a negotiated two-state solution,” he added.
UNRWA Commissioner-General Philip Lazzarini said, “The agency could not be happier, because we will once again partner with the United States to provide crucial assistance to some of the most affected refugees across the Middle East.”
The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that its position is that UNRWA “in its current form perpetuates the conflict and does not contribute to its resolution.” She added that the re-provision of US aid “must be accompanied by fundamental and necessary changes in the nature, objectives and behavior of the organization.”
The tasks of aAndنروا
The agency was established in 1948 to take care of thousands of Palestinian refugees after their displacement during the 1948 war.
The agency says it supports about 5.7 million refugees in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, and provides them with health care, education and social services.
When Trump took office, the United States was the largest funder of UNRWA. It provided it with $ 364 million in 2017 and funded about 30 percent of its operations.
But the Trump administration ended all support for UNRWA in 2018, describing it as “irreparably flawed.” The agency strongly rejected the accusation.
Other donors have increased their contributions in response to the crisis, but the budget supporting the provision of basic services remains massive.
The director of UNRWA operations in the West Bank, Gwen Lewis, told the BBC that the past few years had been difficult as the agency had to make cuts in its programs. It was forced to delay paying its employees’ salaries at the end of last year due to the shortage.
“The (American) announcement will reassure a lot in society and our employees, but this does not mean that we are on a financially secure land yet,” she said. She added: So we really hope that this US support will be a signal for other countries to renew their funding.
Jylland Neal Analysis
Middle East affairs correspondent
The news left a relief for Palestinian circles, after suffering from a crisis in their donor-supported economy, which suffered losses due to Trump administration decisions.
In the Qalandia camp in the West Bank, Hassan Abu al-Aish (85 years) said that he was affected by the cut of aid and could no longer afford the basic costs, and that “when Trump came, he stopped funding for UNRWA and closed all doors in our face.”
All eyes are on President Biden regarding the other political decisions that his predecessor’s administration made regarding the Middle East.
However, the step to revive the two-state negotiations is unlikely until the results of the impact of the recent elections in Israel and after the Palestinian elections, scheduled for months, become clear.