Palestine Considers Resorting to Security Council over UNRWA Funding Cut

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A Palestinian man sits next to food supplies at an aid distribution center run by UNRWA in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip September 1, 2018. (Reuters)

Palestinians, the United Nations and the Arab League have widely condemned the US administration's decision to suspend United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) funding and vowed to confront it in all ways, while Israel welcomed the decision.

President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian leadership are considering going to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and the Security Council to challenge the US decision stopping all aid to the UNRWA, in order to take the necessary measures to prevent getting the situation out of hand, said presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh on Saturday.

“This US decision does not serve peace, but rather promotes terrorism in the region and is also an attack on the rights of the Palestinian people,” Abu Rudeineh said, pointing out that this decision is only one in a series of decisions and policies that are hostile to the Palestinian people.

The US decision came a few days after US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley announced that its administration questions the of Palestinian “right of return.”

"We will be a donor if it [UNRWA] reforms what it does ... if they actually change the number of refugees to an accurate account, we will look back at partnering them," Haley said.

UNRWA provides services to about 5 million Palestinian refugees across Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank and Gaza. But US and Israeli reports noted that Trump’s administration will only pay for the descendants of the roughly 500,000 Palestinians who were driven out of their homes.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on Friday that UNRWA’s business model and fiscal practices were an “irredeemably flawed operation” and that the agency’s “endlessly and exponentially expanding community of entitled beneficiaries is simply unsustainable.”

The US administration has "carefully reviewed" the issue and "will not make additional contributions to UNRWA," spokeswoman Nauert indicated.

UNRWA also rejected the criticisms with spokesman Chris Gunness describing it as “a force for regional stability.”

Speaking in Jordan, Gunness said: “It is a deeply regrettable decision...some of the most disadvantaged, marginalized and vulnerable people on this planet are likely to suffer.”

In the name of UNRWA, Spokesman Sami Mshasha expressed the Agency’s deep regret and disappointment at the US announcement that it will no longer provide funding to the Agency after decades of staunch political and financial support.

“UNRWA will pursue with even greater determination and engagement its mobilization of existing partners, 20 of whom have to date contributed more money than in 2017, including countries from the Gulf, Asia and Europe, and of new ones,” Mashasha asserted.

Meanwhile, the German government said it will significantly increase its funding for the UN agency that supports Palestinian refugees after the US cut its contributions, according to letters seen by news agencies.

"We are currently preparing to provide an additional amount of significant funds," Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in a letter to EU foreign ministers.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed deep regret on Friday over a United States decision to stop all aid to the UNRWA.

“We regret the United States’ decision to provide no further funding to UNRWA, which provides essential services to Palestine refugees and contributes to stability in the region,” said Guterres spokesman Stephane Dujarric, explaining that UNRWA enjoys the “full confidence of the Secretary-General.”

UNRWA has a strong record of providing high-quality education, health and other essential services, often in extremely difficult circumstances, to Palestinian refugees who are in great need, according to the UN spokesman.

“The Secretary-General calls on other countries to help fill the remaining financial gap so that UNRWA can continue to provide this vital assistance, as well as a sense of hope this vulnerable population,” added Dujarric.

Saeb Erekat, PLO Executive Committee Secretary General totally rejected and condemned this decision of stopping UNRWA funding.

For his part, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki condemned the US decision on UNRWA, saying "the United States will never succeed in dismantling the UN agency or marginalize the Palestinian refugees' issue," WAFA reported.

Several officials and Palestinian factions have also denounced the US decision describing it as “political blackmail”.

Fatah movement asserted that the right of return sacred and protected by the historical right and by the international law drafted by the United Nations. Hamas movement said that "the right of return is an “inheritance that can not be written off."

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