Frozen U.S. Spending for U.N. in Gaza Is Minimal, State Dept. Says

Frozen U.S. Spending for U.N. in Gaza Is Minimal, State Dept. Says

The State Department downplayed the importance on Tuesday of its choice to pause funding for the primary U.N. support company in Gaza, explaining that it had already offered just about all the cash allotted by Congress for that function and that the Biden administration hoped the matter could possibly be resolved shortly.

More than 99 p.c of American {dollars} authorized by Congress for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, or UNRWA, has been despatched to the company, the State Department spokesman, Matthew Miller, stated on Tuesday.

The State Department paused the money “temporarily” on Friday after accusations by Israel {that a} dozen UNRWA staff participated within the Oct. 7 Hamas assaults, with some holding hostages inside Gaza. At least 17 different donor nations have additionally suspended their funding to the company, according to the group U.N. Watch.

Human rights teams and progressive Democrats in Congress have denounced the transfer, saying that it’ll deprive harmless Palestinians of desperately wanted support. But Mr. Miller stated the State Department had despatched all however $300,000 of about $121 million budgeted for UNRWA to the company, suggesting that the near-term impact of the U.S. motion inside Gaza will probably be minor.

U.S. officers recommended that the true query is how far more cash Congress will probably be prepared to approve for an company that many Republicans condemn for what they name anti-Israel bias and Hamas sympathies. Underscoring that uncertainty, witnesses at a House subcommittee hearing on Tuesday denounced UNRWA and referred to as for its restructuring or substitute.

Israel’s authorities says that at least 12 employees of the agency participated in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, and that UNRWA employs as many 1,300 Hamas members. Israel estimates that the assault left roughly 1,200 individuals dead; one other 240 individuals had been taken hostage.

On Monday, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken stated the United States had not independently confirmed the fees however deemed them “extremely credible.”

Before the Israeli allegations, the State Department had deliberate to schedule its subsequent cost to UNRWA in early summer season, though a long-running finances standoff in Congress leaves it unclear when a brand new State Department finances may be authorized. And even then, the cash should win the help of Republicans who had been hostile to UNRWA even earlier than its purported hyperlinks to the assault in Israel emerged.

Before any new cash authorized by Congress reaches UNRWA, the State Department should finish its declared pause on any funding for the company. Mr. Miller stated the timing of that “will rely upon the investigation that UNRWA is enterprise, that the United Nations is enterprise, and no matter steps they put into place.” He stated Biden administration officers hoped that would occur “shortly,” as a result of “we very a lot help the work that UNRWA does. We suppose it’s vital.”

His remarks got here amid anger on the choice by donor international locations to pause their help to UNRWA. In an announcement on Monday, Agnès Callamard, the secretary normal of Amnesty International, stated it was “shocking, indeed inhumane,” that governments, together with the United States, had paused their funding. She famous that the dozen staff, who’ve been fired, had been amongst an UNRWA workers of 30,000 individuals. (At least 152 of the company’s workers members have been killed in Israel’s army operation in Gaza, in response to UNRWA.)

And a number of progressives condemned the Biden administration’s transfer, together with Bernie Sanders, impartial of Vermont, who said in a statement on Tuesday that “we can’t permit hundreds of thousands to endure due to the actions of 12 individuals. The U.S. and different international locations should restore funding to stave off this humanitarian disaster.”

While the quantity the United States is withholding is a small fraction of UNRWA’s roughly $1.2 billion annual finances, company officers warn that funding freezes by quite a few donor international locations collectively may threaten the group’s humanitarian work. The United States has in most years been UNRWA’s largest single donor, however different donors collectively present many of the company’s annual finances.

In mid-October, President Biden additionally introduced $100 million in emergency support for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, which the White House said in an announcement could be offered “by means of trusted companions together with U.N. companies” and worldwide nongovernmental organizations.

In Washington, the query of UNRWA funding has acquired partisan overtones. Republicans have for years echoed Israeli complaints that UNRWA staff sympathize with Palestinian militants and have allowed weapons to be saved of their amenities. (UNRWA has denied many such accusations through the years.)

President Trump cut off all U.S. funding for UNRWA in 2018. Appearing on Fox News on Tuesday, Nikki Haley, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who’s difficult Mr. Trump for the Republican presidential nomination, took credit score for persuading him. “I do know UNRWA nicely,” she stated, arguing that faculties affiliated with the company taught “terrorist hate towards Israelis.”

“For years, there was intensive proof that UNRWA is just not a impartial arbiter, and that their anti-Israel bias is widespread and systemic,” the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Representative Michael McCaul of Texas, said in a statement final week. “Yet the Biden administration inexplicably restarted funding the group in 2021.”

Mr. Blinken tangled with the thorny matter simply earlier than the Hamas assaults. Last fall, Republicans had been quickly blocking $75 million in meals help budgeted for UNRWA in Gaza. Amid warnings of mass starvation, Mr. Blinken circumvented the Republican maintain and freed the cash.

The State Department didn’t announce the motion publicly, however a U.S. department of UNRWA thanked Mr. Blinken on social media on Oct. 3. Hamas militants breached Gaza’s border fence with Israel 4 days later.



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