The US has announced that it will hold back more than half of the funding it provides for a UN agency that supports Palestinians, about two weeks after President Donald Trump threatened to pull funding for the group.
The decision drew condemnation from Palestinians, praise from Israel, and expressions of deep concern from UN officials and refugee groups worried about the humanitarian impact and particularly the potential for further destabilization of a region already reeling from conflict in Syria.
The US will withhold more than half its scheduled $125 million payment from the United Nations Relief Works Agency, which provides humanitarian aid, education, social services and medical care to Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the move had nothing to do with “punishing” the Palestinians for their refusal to enter into negotiations with Israel, or their decision to push for a UN vote that resulted in overwhelming international condemnation of the Trump administration’s decision to unilaterally recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“This is not aimed at punishing anyone,” Nauert said Tuesday, as she outlined the US decision to release $60 million in funding for the agency, while indefinitely withholding another $65 million.
But in early January, about two weeks after the UN vote, Trump tweeted that, “we pay the Palestinians HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect.” He went on to say, “with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace,” he added, “why should we make any of these massive future payments to them