Israeli Defense Officials: Swift U.S. Cuts in UNRWA Funding Would Create Vacuum That Hamas Would Fill

Netanyahu supports breaking up the UN agency, which he says perpetuates the refugee status of the Palestinians

Noa Landau
Noa Landau
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
A Palestinian child plays in an impoverished neighborhood of the Khan Younis refugee camp, southern Gaza, August 25, 2018.
A Palestinian child plays in an impoverished neighborhood of the Khan Younis refugee camp, southern Gaza, August 25, 2018.Credit: AFP
Noa Landau
Noa Landau

Israeli defense officials told the country’s leaders Sunday that a swift cut in the budget of the UN’s Relief and Works Agency could lead to a vacuum in supplying basic services to the Gaza Strip, creating a gap that Hamas might fill.

The Trump administration is reportedly preparing to take a number of severe steps against the UN agency in the near future. Gaza’s food and education sectors would take the brunt of the blow. The U.S. is the largest donor to UNRWA, and last year transferred more than $360 million to the organization.

>> Explained: What is the UN Agency for Palestinian Refugees, and will Trump really defund It?

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu supports breaking up UNRWA, which he says perpetuates the refugee status of the Palestinians. Israel, however, has told Washington a number of times over the past year that a dramatic and sudden cut in the agency’s budget could lead to a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip and the strengthening of Hamas’ power.

A report that is set to be published by the administration at the beginning of September will cap the number of Palestinian refugees at half a million – about a tenth of the UN's number, the Israel Television News Company reported Saturday.

In addition, the report said that the U.S. intends to freeze funding for the organization in the West Bank and to ask Israel to consider limiting its activities.

Senior American government officials have recently visited UNRWA several times. A senior Trump administration official told Haaretz this month that "UNRWA’s mandate has perpetuated and exacerbated the refugee crisis and must be changed."

These remarks were made after a report that Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, pressured Jordan to strip the refugee status of the two million Palestinians residing in the country.

In January, the U.S. froze tens of millions of dollars it was scheduled to transfer to UNRWA.

In response, the UN aid agency enacted extensive cutbacks, including laying off dozens of teachers in East Jerusalem and the West Bank and about 100 workers in 13 refugee camps in Jordan.

Click the alert icon to follow topics:

Comments

SUBSCRIBERS JOIN THE CONVERSATION FASTER

Automatic approval of subscriber comments.

Subscribe today and save 40%

Already signed up? LOG IN

ICYMI

Palestinians search through the rubble of a building in which Khaled Mansour, a top Islamic Jihad militant was killed following an Israeli airstrike in Rafah, southern Gaza strip, on Sunday.

Gazans Are Tired of Pointless Wars and Destruction, and Hamas Listens to Them

Trump and Netanyahu at the White House in Washington, in 2020.

Three Years Later, Israelis Find Out What Trump Really Thought of Netanyahu

German soldier.

The Rival Jewish Spies Who Almost Changed the Course of WWII

Rio. Not all Jewish men wear black hats.

What Does a Jew Look Like? The Brits Don't Seem to Know

Galon. “I’m coming to accomplish a specific mission: to increase Meretz’s strength and ensure that the party will not tread water around the electoral threshold. If Meretz will be large enough, it will be the basis for a Jewish-Arab partnership.” Daniel Tchetchik

'I Have No Illusions About Ending the Occupation, but the Government Needs the Left'

Soldiers using warfare devices made by the Israeli defense electronics company Elbit Systems.

Russia-Ukraine War Catapults Israeli Arms Industry to Global Stage