Op-Ed via Middle East Eye

What would happen if Trump cuts UNRWA funding?

On Tuesday, Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, delivered a rather ambiguous threat in response to a question on the maintenance of the US level of funding to UNRWA. She replied; "the president has said that he doesn't want to give any additional funding or stop funding until the Palestinians are agreeing (sic) to come back to the negotiating table".

President Trump himself tweeted the following threat; "But with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?"

Funding withdrawal

Ambiguous threats and foreign policy statements are not a new phenomenon for the Trump administration, and whilst UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness maintains they have not been informed of any change in US policy, the consequences of potential funding withdrawal from the agency must also be considered in all seriousness.

UNRWA was established in 1950 in order to provide relief services for the 700,000 Palestinian refugees who had been expelled from Palestine following the establishment of Israel. It operates in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria and provides Palestinians with primary and secondary education, health services as well as various camp infrastructure projects.

Although millions of Palestinians rely on their services, UNRWA is also sometimes criticized for perpetuating the conflict and footing the bill that Israel should be paying.

The US is UNRWA's biggest donor with last year's donation totaling $368 m , nearly 30 percent of its total funding. In the past, when UNRWA has had a funding shortfall they have suspended programmes or certain aspects of programmes.

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