Sitting beside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, President Donald Trump made it clear on Thursday that the US will withhold aid money from the Palestinians until they return to peace talks with Israel.
The US, he said, gives “hundreds of millions of dollars” to the Palestinians, and “that money is on the table and that money’s not going to them unless they sit down and negotiate peace.”
According to David Bedein of the Center for Near East Policy Research, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNWRA), for example, has received advances from Belgium and other countries to make up for funds withheld by the US.
Bedein, who is currently producing a film on the UNWRA schools, told World Israel News (WIN) he is certain that they are operating normally and no funds are lacking. UNWRA will host a gathering of donor nations sometime soon, and they will get what they need, he said. “Whatever the Americans withhold, whether it’s $60 million or $100 million, they will get it from Europe, the Saudis or the Qataris.”
What concerns Bedein most, he explained, is that there is no supervision to prevent the UNWRA-run schools, whose teachers’ union is controlled by Hamas, from practising incitement to terror.
No cut in UNRWA services
Prof. Menachem Klein of Bar Ilan University concurred, telling WIN: “If US aid is cut any further, the Palestinians can still make up for it by asking other donor nations to give more. As far as we can tell, UNWRA still manages to provide the same services.”
Klein said that the Palestinians are also “sending a message to the US that if they are harmed, the stability of Jordan may be compromised.”
Jordan is home to many Palestinian refugee camps serviced by UNWRA, and there are concerns of major unrest in the Hashemite Kingdom if funding is slashed.
“The Palestinian Authority (PA) is willing to pay the price, but will not apologize to the US for snubbing Vice President [Mike] Pence or US envoys,” Klein added. “Donor countries will be asked to step up and raise their donations. Europe will agree to help cover the US cuts, because maintaining stability in the West Bank is important to them.”
Klein said that the US is looking at other ways to punish the PA for boycotting Washington’s mediation efforts. “The conspiracy out there is that the US is priming [Palestinian President Mahmoud] Abbas’ arch enemy, Mohamed Dahlan, to replace him.” Klein does not necessarily buy into the theory, emphasizing that the Israeli security establishment, Egypt and Jordan want to preserve the status quo.
In 2017, the US gave around $700 million in support to the Palestinians, of which roughly half went to UNRWA. The agency has a mandate to provide schooling, health care, and other services to more than three million Palestinian “refugees” across the Middle East.