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US restores hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for Palestinians, overturning Trump decision


More than $ 200 million will soon begin to flow to economic, development and humanitarian programs for the Palestinian people, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday – a move hailed by both the Relief and Works Agency. United Nations (UNRWA), which supports displaced Palestinians, and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh.

The money will go to UNRWA as well as Covid-19 recovery efforts, support for basic needs such as food and water, support for civil society and the Jerusalem hospital network- Is, said Blinken.

“The United States is committed to advancing prosperity, security and freedom for both Israelis and Palestinians in tangible ways right now, which is important in itself, but also as a way forward. a negotiated two-state solution, “Blinken said in a statement.

The announcement reverses the Trump administration’s 2018 decision to suspend nearly all US aid to the Palestinians.

Israel’s foreign ministry responded cautiously on Wednesday, refraining from outright criticism of the Biden administration and instead aiming its fire on UNRWA: “Israel’s position is that the organization in its current form perpetuates the conflict and does not contribute to its resolution. The renewal of assistance to UNRWA should be accompanied by substantial and necessary changes in the nature, objectives and conduct of the organization, ”the ministry said in a statement.

UNRWA was founded in 1949 as the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. When he began operations the following year, he was responsible for around 750,000 people who had been driven out or fled their homes during the fighting in the territory that became the State of Israel. The agency is also responsible for the descendants of these original refugees, which means that around 5.6 million people are currently eligible for UNRWA services, according to the UNRWA website.

Palestinians assert the right of return and invoke United Nations General Assembly resolution 194, adopted in 1948, which states that “ refugees wishing to return home and live in peace with their neighbors should be allowed to do so on as soon as possible. ‘

The right of return has always been seen as one of the main sticking points in efforts to resolve the conflict because Israel argues that, among other issues, granting the right of return would mean the end of the Jewish character of the state.

UNRWA welcomed the United States’ announcement on Wednesday, saying the United States had “restored its role of friend and support to the UN agency for decades,” adding that the news was coming to an end. crucial moment.

“The recovery of funds comes after recent years of severe financial crisis for UNRWA. The Covid-19 pandemic has only worsened the situation, forcing the Office to respond to a public health crisis amid the most serious financial crisis in its history and to manage its resources over a month to the other because of unreliable funding, ”a statement read.

UNRWA West Bank Director Gwyn Lewis told CNN the agency was forced to delay payments to staff late last year, as well as cut back on investment programs, such as expenses for new garbage collection equipment in refugee camps.

Lewis added that the agency hoped Wednesday’s announcement would open the door to an increase in US contributions so that it could return to pre-Trump funding levels of $ 360 million per year.

PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh also welcomed the change in US policy and expressed hope that it could lead to further US efforts to try to resolve the conflict.

“We welcome the resumption of US aid to UNRWA and Palestine, and we call on the US administration to create a new political path that meets the rights and aspirations of the Palestinian people on the basis of international law and UN resolutions, ”Prime Minister Shtayyeh tweeted.

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