US ends aid for UN Palestinian aid agency

The US has announced that it is ending all funding for the UN aid agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA. Washington has accused the agency of deliberately inflating the number of Palestinians who are entitled to refugee status. Journalists criticise the step but also voice their understanding.

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taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

US president taking the easy route

Freezing US refugee aid is wrong even if there are good reasons for it, writes the taz's Israel correspondent Susanne Knaul:

“The corrupt Palestinian leadership has not used the international community's generous dollars and euros to lead the people gradually towards independence. Instead it has turned its begging hand into a generally accepted institution while privately pocketing the international funds. As long as the payments continue as they have done, nothing will change. Nevertheless one must not leave the people who are dependent on the aid in the lurch. ... Anyone who turns his back on the schools in the refugee camps, the sick and the elderly is taking the easy route.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Education is the Palestinians' true wealth

Le Monde also criticises the US's policy on aid to the Palestinians:

“No one believes today that a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians is within reach. However, this idea alone must not lead us to another false conclusion. ... An ultimatum won't be enough to make the Palestinian people renounce their legitimate national aspirations or their thirst for freedom. ... The UNRWA has done much to improve the Palestinians' level of education. That is the true wealth of this nation. The idea of their being deprived of it is as absurd as it is dangerous.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Trump enforcing peace to Israel's advantage

Trump's step makes it clear once more where his sympathies lie, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung observes:

“If Trump were seeking a balanced solution he could exert pressure on Israel. ... But the opposite is the case. Without demanding Israeli concessions the American president has moved the embassy of his country to Jerusalem and recognised the latter as the capital of Israel. While Trump has cancelled the 360 million dollars for the UNRWA he has no intention of cutting the military aid for Israel amounting to 3.8 billion dollars per year. His heart beats for Israel and he wants a peace that works in its favour.”

Frankfurter Rundschau (DE) /

A mistake with grave consequences

Trump's move is endangering the peace process, the Frankfurter Rundschau fears:

“The US is saying farewell to its role as intermediary, and the Palestinians are most certainly not being encouraged to make concessions. Criticism of the UNRWA is not unwarranted. There are even those who are saying that the aid organisation is being instrumentalised by the radical Islamist Hamas. If that's true, it must be stopped. But slashing aid won't help. Even Israeli military personnel say Trump is making a mistake. The economy in the Gaza Strip could collapse, provoking violent protests.”

Polityka (PL) /

Poverty radicalises people

The lack of financial aid could lead to further radicalisation among the Palestinians, Polityka's Middle East expert Agnieszka Zagner warns:

“Driving the Palestinians into a corner won't make them any more willing to negotiate. On the contrary, it will only harden their stance. ... Cutting financial aid has a negative impact on ordinary people's lives and destroys their trust in the leaders in Ramallah. If Abbas is not in a position to guarantee them dignified lives, perhaps they'll find an organisation that is willing to. If we look at the situation in the Gaza Strip we can imagine what kind of organisation that would be.”