The United States drew heavy criticism after it announced to cut more than $200 million in funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) that provides assistance to at least 5 million Palestinian refugees.
However, the latest Axios report suggests President Donald Trump may have taken the drastic action on the behest of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“Until several weeks ago, the Israeli policy was that any cut in American funding of UNRWA should be gradual and without any aid cuts to Gaza, thanks to the fear of a humanitarian collapse and an escalation on the ground,” wrote Barak Ravid of Israel's Channel 10 News.
The reporter said Israel’s military and intelligence services were also on board with the plan. However, Netanyahu reportedly changed his mind.
“Israeli officials told me that Netanyahu decided to change the Israeli government's position several weeks ago, supporting a complete and immediate cut of all U.S. funding to UNRWA,” Ravid continued. “The officials said Netanyahu conveyed this message privately to the White House and to members of the Senate Appropriations Committee via his close confidant, Ron Dermer, Israel's ambassador to the U.S.”
According to the report, Netanyahu’s office has not denied the account as of yet, which is extremely troubling. If the request to immediately stop the funding came directly from the Israeli leader, it raises some serious concerns about how much influence the apartheid state may or may not have on Trump’s White House.
The UNRWA aid cuts will undoubtedly worsen the humanitarian crisis in Gaza enclave, which has already suffered largely under Israeli blockades. As a result, thousands of children will no longer have access to education, the sick will not be able to get medical attention and scores will be forced to starve as food distribution will be affected the most.
The Palestinian leadership deemed the Trump administration’s inhumane decision as “cheap blackmail.”
“The Palestinian people and leadership will not be intimidated and will not succumb to coercion,” said Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi at the time.
While the United Kingdom, Germany and other donors have pledged to significantly increase their funding to the U.N. aid agency, Israel has unsurprisingly praised Trump for halting his support.
“The U.S. did something very important by stopping the funding for the refugee perpetuation agency known as UNRWA,” said Netanyahu, according to the Times of Israel. “It is finally starting to solve the problem. The funds must be taken and used to genuinely help rehabilitate the refugees, whose true number is a fraction of the number reported by UNRWA.”
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Reuters, Ints Kalnins