The Biden administration was applauded Thursday by the U.N. agency for so-called Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, after it offered $250 million in funding while sidestepping a 2018 law that prevents U.S. taxpayer dollars from supporting the Palestinian Authority.
“UNRWA could not be more pleased that once again we will partner with the United States to provide critical assistance to some of the most vulnerable refugees across the Middle East,” the agency’s commissioner general, Philippe Lazzarini, said in a statement seen by AFP.
“The U.S. contribution comes at a critical moment, as we continue to adjust to the challenges the Covid-19 pandemic presents.”
As Breitbart News reported, the State Department’s announcement of the funding flow confirmed weeks of speculation about a “quiet” effort to restart finance for the Palestinians — even as the American public struggles during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. plans included $75m in economic and development assistance in the West Bank and Gaza, $10m for peacebuilding programs through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAid), and $150m in humanitarian assistance for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).
The direct Palestinian aid – with no concessions asked for or offered in return – is in direct contrast to the position taken by former U.S. President Donald Trump.
In 2018 he signed the Taylor Force Act into law, which prevents the U.S. from providing economic support and other funding to the Palestinian Authority while it continues to offer stipends for the families of deceased terrorists, or to pay terrorists in Israeli prisons — a policy referred to by critics as “pay-for-slay.”
The Palestinian leadership, having refused to end the payments, as a consequence lost U.S. funding.
Trump also cut funding to the UNRWA because of concerns that it has supported terror. The Taylor Force Act allows for a limited set of humanitarian exemptions, such as funding for vaccination programs.
The Biden decision to earmark millions in Palestinian support drew particular anger from Israel, which argues the agency serves to perpetuate the idea of a Palestinian refugee problem in a way that undermines the Jewish state.