Posts Tagged ‘aid to Palestinians’

EU pledges €42.5m extra aid to Palestinians after Donald Trump cuts US contribution

February 1, 2018

The Independent

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini warns US jeopardising peace process by going it alone

By Jon Stone Brussels

The European Union has pledged an additional €42.5m (£37m) aid package for the Palestinian occupied territories following Donald Trump’s decision to cut US support to the would-be state.

The new money comes weeks after the US President decided to withhold $65m (£45.8) of a $125m aid package to the UN agency in Palestine, arguing that America gets “no appreciation or respect” for its payments.

Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign affairs chief, announced the package on Wednesday in Brussels, warning Mr Trump that the US would jeopardise the Israeli-Palestinian peace process by going it alone in the region.

“Any framework for negotiations must be multilateral and must involve all players – all partners – that are essential to this process. A process without one or the other would simply not work, would simply not be realistic,” Ms Mogherini told reporters in Brussels. “Nothing without the United States, nothing with the United States alone.”

The new aid package includes €14.9m to “preserve the Palestinian character of East Jerusalem”, which has been encroached on by Israeli settlements in recent years, including 176 new settler homes signed off in October last year.

Ms Mogherini restated the EU’s commitment to a two-state solution with Jerusalem as the capital of both an Israeli and Palestinian state. Observers have warned that illegal Israeli settlements in Palestinian land would make it even harder to draw a future Palestinian state and jeopardise the peace process.

The money also includes €27.6m towards building institutions for a “democratic and accountable Palestinian state”.

Announcing the aid at the joint press conference with Norway’s foreign minister Ine Marie Eriksen Soreide, Ms Mogherini said the EU was “thinking, first and foremost, to the population in Gaza”.

“The daily life of citizens has been very difficult for too long a time and this is despite large international humanitarian help, including from the European Union,” she said.

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Palestinians protest against aid cuts outside the United Nations Relief and Works Agency office in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip (Reuters)

She added that the new support would be on top of an additional €107m the EU is providing for the UNWRA, the UN agency that faced funding cuts from Mr Trump.

EU Commissioner for Europe’s neighbourhood policy, Johannes Hahn, said: “With this new assistance package the EU continues to support the Palestinians on their way towards the establishment of their own state as part of the two-state solution, with Jerusalem as capital of both Israel and Palestine.

“The European Union is, and will remain, Palestine’s most reliable and important donor, investing in businesses, youth and schooling, helping to provide access to clean water in Gaza, strengthening civil society and investing on education and health.”

The Belgian government was first off the blocks after Mr Trump’s decision to cut aid, pledging to donate an immediate extra €19m to help make up the UNRWA shortfall in early January.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/palestine-aid-donald-trump-eu-frederica-mogherini-israel-a8187606.html

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UN envoy warns Gaza facing ‘full collapse’

January 30, 2018
© AFP/File | Gaza, battered since 2008 by three wars between Israel and Palestinian militants, suffers from shattered infrastructure, a strict Israeli blockade and massive unemployment
TEL AVIV (AFP) – A senior United Nations official on Tuesday warned the Palestinian coastal enclave of the Gaza Strip was on the verge of “full collapse”.UN Middle East peace envoy Nickolay Mladenov said a key to saving Gaza from disaster was restoring the government of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to power there, a decade after it was forced out by the militant Islamist movement Hamas.

“Without that Gaza risks exploding in our face again, this time in a far more deadly and violent manner than in the past,” Mladenov said at the annual conference of Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.

Gaza, battered since 2008 by three wars between Israel and Palestinian militants, suffers from shattered infrastructure, a strict Israeli blockade and massive unemployment.

Earlier this month, the White House froze tens of millions of dollars in contributions to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.

“I often say publicly, in (UN) Security Council briefings and in other formats, that we are in the midst of a major humanitarian crisis,” Mladenov said.

“Let me be very clear today here, that we’re well beyond that,” he added.

“We’re on the verge of a total systems failure in Gaza, with a full collapse of the economy, with social services, political, humanitarian and security implications stemming from that.”

Mladenov said he would raise those concerns in Brussels on Wednesday at a meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, which coordinates international donor support for the Palestinians.

He said the meeting would be at a high level with representatives of the Israelis, Palestinians and “a number” of Arab foreign ministers attending.

Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah will take part, a Palestinian Authority statement said.

“One of our key messages must really be: what can we actually do to create and preserve hope for the people of Gaza, in order to address both the militant aspect of it and the humanitarian aspect?” Mladenov said.

Jordan king urges world to back Palestinian rights — Wants East Jerusalem as Palestine’s capital

January 29, 2018

 

Jordan’s King Abdullah II (R) welcomes Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas at the Royal Palace in Amman on January 29, 2018. (AFP)
AMMAN: Jordan’s King Abdullah II on Monday urged the international community to “fulfil its responsibilities” toward Palestinians in Jerusalem and support the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.
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His comments, following a meeting with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, came after US President Donald Trump sparked Arab and Muslim outrage by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and suspended funds to UNRWA.
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“The international community must fulfil its responsibilities to protect the rights of Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims and Christians in Jerusalem,” Abdullah said, according to a palace statement.
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The city is “the key to achieving peace and stability in the region,” he said.
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East Jerusalem was under Jordanian administration before Israel occupied it during the 1967 Six-Day War.
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Israel, which signed a peace treaty with Jordan in 1994, recognizes the kingdom’s status as custodian of the city’s holy sites.
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Jordan in December called Trump’s move “a violation of decisions of international law and the United Nations charter.”
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The Jordanian monarch also on Monday urged the international community to support the UN agency for Palestinians.
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Earlier this month, the United States put on hold two planned payments of more than $100 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.
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The agency, set up after the 1948 creation of Israel that drove huge numbers of Palestinians from their homes, faces what the UN has described as the “most severe” crisis in its history.
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Palestinians search for alternatives to US-led peace process

January 29, 2018

A Palestinian student from the Balata refugee camp near Nablus in the Israeli occupied West Bank protests against the reduction of the services of the UN agency and against US president’s decision to cut aid, on Sunday. (AFP)
AMMAN: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has triggered a frantic search for a new strategy toward ending Israeli occupation and establishing a Palestinian state.
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During the Palestine Central Council meeting earlier this month, Abbas angrily declared that US-brokered negotiations were over after President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
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Abbas’ two-hour speech in front of the 80-member council was followed by a boycott of the visiting US Vice President Mike Pence.
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The Palestinian leadership has triggered the pursuit of a more even-handed mechanism to handle negotiations with Israel.
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Hani Al-Masri, a Ramallah-based Palestinian analyst, described Abbas’ speech as having delved “deep into history, passed quickly over the present, and largely — almost totally — ignored the future.”
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But Abbas did give some hints about possible options ahead.
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Palestinians have long claimed the talks were biased in favor of Israel and Abbas called for any further discussion to be brokered by an international committee.
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He also said they would pursue Israel at the International Criminal Court for war crimes, encourage popular resistance and continue to work with Israeli peace activists.
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International sponsors
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Abbas dispatched emissaries to Russia and China soon after Trump broke with decades of US policy with his Jerusalem declaration last month.
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But the focus of Palestinian diplomatic strategy has been on Europe where the hope is that Brussels can provide balance to the pro-Israel US role.
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Abbas visited Belgium last week and urged European countries to respond by recognizing the state of Palestine with its capital in East Jerusalem. But the plea was met with a muted response.
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Slovenia’s foreign minister said he hoped his country would later this year become the 10th European nation to recognize Palestine. Sweden is the only country to have recognized Palestine while being part of the EU. Countries like the Czech Republic and Hungary did so before joining the bloc. Ireland, Portugal, Luxemburg and Belgium are debating whether to follow suit.
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While the EU assured Abbas of its commitment to a two-state solution with Jerusalem as a shared capital, there was little support during his visit for his call to immediately recognize the Palestinian state, Reuters reported.
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The EU is the biggest donor of aid to Palestinians but it is also the largest trade partner with Israel.
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In a meeting in Washington on Wednesday, the head of Palestine’s mission to the US, Husam Zomlot told a delegation of European diplomats that the issue is no longer one of the negotiations but of implementation.
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“The time is ripe for the activation of the international community led by Europe to take a lead role in a peace implementation process that is based on international law,” he said.
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While efforts in Brussels and other international moves will continue, it is not expected that this alone will lead to significant progress in the near future.
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Non-violent resistance
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For many Palestinians, the only realistic and possible alternative to US-led peace talks is what Abbas referred to as “peaceful popular resistance.”
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The Palestinian president praised the tactics deployed during the first intifada, which started in 1987, and made it clear that he abhors violence.
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Mubarak Awad the founder of the International Center for Nonviolence told Arab News that peaceful resistance must be a dedicated strategy, not a short-term tactic.
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“We are requesting many groups, organization, colleges, universities, and churches to boycott, divest and sanction Israel yet we eat Israeli products.”
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He suggested that Palestine begin forming local communities to take care of people in preparation for an economic struggle against Israel that will inevitably lead to a cut in the Palestinian budget.
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“Local bodies need to organize, prepare and help their members to be prepared for the cost and sacrifice that will come with the struggle for freedom and independence. They need to work towards bringing unity and self-reliance.”
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At the present time, Awad and others are aware that neither Abbas nor most of his Fatah movement are capable of leading a physically demanding national non-violent campaign.
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The majority of Fatah activists are deeply embroiled in the Palestinian government and most of its leaders are over 65.
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Awad also suggested that Palestinians should consider using a different currency than the Israeli Shekel, such as the Jordanian dinar, Egyptian pound, or create a Palestinian currency.
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There is also the challenge of political apathy among Palestinian parties and factions, especially in Gaza where living conditions are the worst and people feel they have been pawns in the hands of local and regional powers and ideologies.

As Gaza and Palestinians approaches ‘famine,’ Israel, rather than world, appears most concerned

January 26, 2018

Opinion
The Times of Israel

January 26, 2018

Following US aid cuts from UNRWA, Palestinian residents hold near-daily protests and coastal enclave appears on brink of economic collapse

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A Palestinian man loads a horse-pulled cart with food aid outside the United Nations food distribution center in Gaza City on January 15, 2018. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Abed)

A Palestinian man loads a horse-pulled cart with food aid outside the United Nations food distribution center in Gaza City on January 15, 2018. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Abed)

Residents of the Gaza Strip are growing increasingly desperate over food shortages, with some saying it’s only a matter of time before Palestinians march on the Erez crossing that straddles the border with Israel “just out of distress.”

“Gaza is heading towards famine,” a longtime friend of this reporter said. “It is only a question of time, and we will get there.”

He added, “There are already cases of families who simply don’t have anything to eat, and the UNRWA budget cuts will only make things worse” — a reference to recent US cuts to the UN Palestinian aid agency.

Recently, nearly every day has seen semi-spontaneous protests, mostly by civilians, who have no livelihood and are seeking to raise international awareness of their plight.

This week, a news agency broadcast an interview with a Khan Younis resident who was offering to sell his son, held in his arms.

“Every day his mother tells me to get him something to eat,” the man said, “and I have nothing to give him.” Behind him were dozens of residents protesting the economic situation in Gaza.

Monday and Tuesday saw general trade strikes in the Strip, perhaps born of a hope, or fantasy, that such a step would serve as a wake-up call to the world, Israel, Egypt or the Palestinian Authority.

But the world is far from being concerned with Gaza at the moment. The Strip is on the brink of economic collapse, but very few are taking an interest.

Hamas security forces stand guard at the Erez border crossing into Israel, in Beit Hanun, in the northern Gaza Strip on March 26, 2017. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)

Although Gazans tend to blame Israel for their situation, it is actually the Jewish state that seems to be trying to encourage improved economic conditions.

The Palestinian Authority recently decided to renew the electricity supply to Gaza by resuming payments for power generated by Israel (now providing power to homes for six hours, followed by 12 hours of darkness).

But the decision to renew the power supply was not due to a sudden stroke of generosity by the PA. According to sources, it was the result of an ultimatum by Israel: The Jewish state warned the PA that if it didn’t renew payments for the Gaza power bill, the Israeli government would cover the costs with PA tax money it collects. Ramallah understood the message and made a public show of renewing electricity payments.

At any rate, the two additional hours of power will not do much to change the economic situation in the Strip.

It was also Israel that recently went against standard policy by approving the entry of materials into Gaza that are considered dual-purpose — that is, they could be used by Hamas to build tunnels or manufacture weaponry.

Last week, wood supplies — in the past a source of tunnel beams — were allowed in to the Strip. Before that, approval was given to supplies of cement, iron, gas, fuels, and other materials.

The general hardship, however, means these dual-purpose materials are not in very high demand. One Gaza trader said there was only a 20 percent demand for the cement that Israel allowed in.

Perhaps the most pressing problem in Gaza these days is connected to government employees, both those of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.

Palestinian children do their homework by candlelight during a power outage in Gaza City on September 11, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

For more than two months, the 45,000 Hamas officials in Gaza have not received their wages. In Hamas’s view, the PA is supposed to pay, but the PA refuses due to the terror group’s refusal to hand over control of the territory.

On top of this are the thousands of PA officials who were forced out on pension. Possibly joining them now will be the 13,000 UNRWA officials, who can apparently expect to receive only half of their wages in the coming month as a result of US cuts.

And so economic activity in Gaza has been reduced dramatically. Unemployment figures have reached some 46.6%. Over a million people — half the population –need UNRWA food packages to survive the month.

One figure that should ring alarm bells in Israel relates to the demand for goods from the Jewish state. According to Palestinian figures, over a year ago the number of trucks carrying goods into the Gaza Strip every day was around 800-1,000, whereas now that has dropped to an average of just 370. This is not because of Israeli measures, but rather because the Gazans have no money to spend.

“There were over 100,000 police clarifications because of checks that bounced,” my friend said. “Every day workers are fired in the biggest trade companies, or they close.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks prior to attend a EU foreign affairs council at the European Council in Brussels, January 22, 2018. (EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP)

Is there a light at the end of the tunnel? At the moment, it appears not. A reconciliation between bitter rivals Fatah and Hamas has faded (again). Hamas and the Fatah-dominated PA are still at loggerheads, separate and hostile.

Egyptian Intelligence Minister Khaled Fawzy, considered the godfather of the reconciliation process, was fired last week. The man chosen to replace him is Abbas Kamil, one of the great enemies of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

Or, in other words, not exactly the kind of person who sees Hamas as a strategic partner.

The heir to Mahmoud Abbas

The recent crisis between the PA and the US, between US President Donald Trump and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, again highlights the question of what will be “the day after” the Palestinian leader departs the political stage.

There are more than a few sources in the Palestinian territories who claim “the day after” is already here. Senior figures in Fatah and the PLO have already opened campaigns for the succession, even though Abbas is still ruling. Meanwhile, two of the names that have been raised in recent years seem a little less relevant due to deteriorating health.

One is the secretary-general of the PLO executive committee, Saeb Erekat, who recently underwent a lung transplant in the US.

The other is the head of the Palestinian general intelligence service, Majed Faraj. According to Ramallah sources, Faraj has not been in the best of health and has needed intensive treatment. It is not clear if it was for those reasons or others that Faraj did not travel with Abbas to Brussels to meet with representatives of the European Union this week. He also skipped a summit in Cairo.  He was at the opening of a recent PLO central committee conference in Ramallah but didn’t attend the second day of meetings.

Mahmoud al-Aloul, member of the Central Committee of Fatah. January 6, 2010. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

So who then is in the running? Deputy Chairman of Fatah Mahmoud al-Aloul has ostensibly emerged as one of the dominant forces. (The Fatah leadership is the body that will apparently decide the heir.) He is responsible for Fatah’s Tanzim militias, appears often at Fatah events, and has cast himself as more extreme than Abbas — perhaps boosting his support among party members in the process.

He is located in Nablus and there are those who claim al-Aloul is preparing his followers for a possible physical battle over the succession.

And then there is Jibril Rajoub, who continues to intensively deal with Palestinian sport and soccer, and Tawfik Tirawi who is still depicted as the “bad boy” of the Fatah leadership.

Not to be forgotten is the man in an Israeli prison, Marwan Barghouti, convicted for his part in the murder of five Israelis in terror attacks. He was and remains the most popular figure in the territories. These days, however, Barghouti doesn’t have a real grip on the Fatah leadership, since those closest to him are being kept at a distance.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/as-gaza-approaches-famine-israel-rather-than-world-appears-most-concerned/

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US takes swipe at Palestinian leader Abbas — At the U.N.

January 25, 2018

AFP

© AFP/File | US Ambassador Nikki Haley said Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas had “insulted” US President Donald Trump
UNITED NATIONS (UNITED STATES) (AFP) – US Ambassador Nikki Haley took direct aim at Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas on Thursday, telling the United Nations Security Council that he lacked the courage needed for a peace deal.Haley spoke soon after President Donald Trump insisted that Palestinians had “disrespected” the United States and issued a new threat to cut aid during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Davos, Switzerland.

The United States remains “deeply committed” to an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, Haley said, “but we will not chase after a Palestinian leadership that lacks what is needed to achieve peace.”

“To get historic results, we need courageous leaders,” she said.

The US ambassador, who has strongly defended Israel at the United Nations, said Abbas had “insulted” Trump and called for suspending recognition of Israel after the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Abbas cancelled a planned meeting with US Vice President Mike Pence to protest the US decision on Jerusalem, which the Palestinians view as the capital of their future state.

Addressing the council, Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour said the search for peace had been Abbas’ “life’s work” and suggested attacks on the Palestinian leader were a form of “demonization.”

Mansour said the Palestinian rejection of the US decision on Jerusalem “is not intended as ‘disrespect'” but rather a “position rooted in full respect for the law, for the principles of justice and equity.”

The Security Council was meeting to discuss Israeli-Palestinian tensions for the first time since the General Assembly voted 128 to 9, with 35 abstentions, to reject the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.

The US move broke with decades of international consensus that the city’s status should be settled as part of a two-state peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

The meeting also followed a US decision to freeze more than $100 million in funding to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) that has been criticized by European governments.

Related:

Trump holds meeting with Israel’s Netanyahu at Davos — Urges Palestinians to the negotiating table

January 25, 2018

Combines from Reuters, AFP and CBS News

Mr. Trump arrived in Davos and the World Economic Forum Thursday, hours after an impromptu press conference with reporters in which he said he is looking forward to being interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller, and is open to a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president was looking forward to “opportunities to advance his America First agenda with world leaders.”

One of President Trump’s first official meetings in Davos was with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanayhu.

Mr. Trump is greeting Netanyahu following the prime minister’s visit with Vice President Mike Pence during his overseas visit to the Middle East. There, Pence had announced the U.S. embassy in Israel would be making its move to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv earlier than planned.

While addressing the international media in Davos, President Trump said he had withheld several millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians in order to get them to the bargaining table. He also said he decided to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in order to remove that topic from the negotiating table.

More as it becomes available…

UN agency appeals to Gulf states to plug Palestinian aid gap

January 23, 2018

A Palestinian boy pulls his brother as he sits in a wheeled-suitcase as he walks down a street in a refugee camp in Gaza City on January 23, 2018. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), set up after the 1948 creation of Israel that drove huge numbers of Palestinians from their homes, faces what the UN has described as the “most severe” crisis in its history as the US held back $65 million that had been assigned for it two weeks after President Donald Trump threatened future payments. (AFP/Mohammed Abed)

NEW YORK: The UN agency for Palestinian refugees has asked European and Gulf donors to plug the $65 million funding gap created by the US decision to slash its contribution by more than half.

Pierre Krahenbuhl, commissioner-general of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), warned that schools and health clinics for Palestinians across the region could be shuttered as the agency seeks to raise a total of $500 million in the “Dignity is Priceless” campaign.

Krahenbuhl has been in funding talks with the EU, Belgium, Norway, Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands as well as looking to the Arabian Gulf, which has become a key donor in recent years.

“Saudi Arabia and the UAE have invested significantly in our reconstruction projects in Gaza in the aftermath of conflict,” Krahenbuhl told Arab News. “There is a renewed effort in mobilization that is required for our funding to become sustainable.”

Saudi Arabia was UNRWA’s third-biggest donor after the US and EU, Krahenbuhl said. Thanks also to large sums from Kuwait and the UAE, Arab League members met a decades-old pledge of funding 7.8 percent of the agency’s budget in 2015 and 2016, although the proportion dipped in 2017.

UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions from UN members. The US, by far the largest contributor, said this month it would withhold $65 million of its $125 million donation.

President Donald Trump questioned the value of such funding and linked donations with the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The State Department said UNRWA needed to make unspecified reforms.

Trump complained on social media that the US gave the Palestinians “hundreds of millions of dollars a year and get no appreciation or respect.” He said: “With the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?”

Aid should not be withheld to gain leverage against the Palestinians, Krahenbuhl said. “It is very important to preserve humanitarian funding from political considerations.”

About 525,000 boys and girls in 700 UNRWA schools could be affected by US cuts, as could health clinics, and the decision could promote extremism and further destabilize the Middle East, said Krahenbuhl.

More than half of the 2 million people in Gaza depend on support from UNRWA and other charities. Palestinians say the cut in US funding could deepen hardship in the Gaza Strip, where the unemployment rate is already 46 percent.

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Pence heads to Mideast amid Arab anger over Jerusalem

January 20, 2018

AFP

© AFP/File / by by Maram Mazen with Dave Clark in Washington | US Vice President Mike Pence’s trip to the Middle East was delayed last month because of controversy over plans to move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem

CAIRO (AFP) – US Vice President Mike Pence headed for Egypt Saturday to begin a Middle East trip overshadowed by anger in the Arab world over Washington’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.Pence had been due to travel to the region in December but controversy over President Donald Trump’s decision to move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem saw many planned meetings cancelled.

While the deadly protests that erupted in the Palestinian territories at the time have subsided, concerns are mounting over the future of the UN aid agency for Palestinians (UNRWA).

Washington has frozen tens of millions of dollars of funding for the cash-strapped body, putting at risk operations to feed, teach and heal hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees.

The Palestinian leadership, already furious over the Jerusalem decision, has denounced the US administration and had already refused to meet Pence in December.

But the vice president’s press secretary, Alyssa Farah, said he would still meet the leaders of Egypt, Jordan and Israel on the high-stakes four-day tour.

Pence will arrive in Cairo on Saturday for talks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi before travelling to Amman for a one-on-one meeting with King Abdullah II on Sunday.

– Key security partners –

The leaders of both countries, the only Arab states that have peace treaties with Israel, would be key players if US mediators ever manage to get a revived Israeli-Palestinian peace process off the ground, as Trump says he wants.

They are also key intelligence-sharing and security partners in America’s various covert and overt battles against Islamist extremism in the region and Egypt is a major recipient of aid to help it buy advanced US military hardware.

Sisi, one of Trump’s closest allies in the region, had urged the US president before his Jerusalem declaration “not to complicate the situation in the region by taking measures that jeopardise the chances of peace in the Middle East”.

Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Egypt’s highest institution of Sunni Islam, cancelled a meeting with Pence in protest at the Jerusalem decision.

The head of Egypt’s Coptic Church, Pope Tawadros II, did the same, saying Trump’s move “did not take into account the feelings of millions of Arab people.”

After Jordan — the custodian of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem — Pence will head to Israel for talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday.

He will also deliver a speech to parliament and meet President Reuven Rivlin during the two-day visit.

Pence can expect a warm welcome after Trump’s decision on Jerusalem, which Israelis and Palestinians alike interpreted as Washington taking Israel’s side in the dispute over the city.

Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967 and later annexed east Jerusalem in a move never recognised by the international community.

Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its united capital, while the Palestinians see the eastern sector as the capital of their future state.

The international community considers east Jerusalem illegally occupied by Israel and currently all countries have their embassies in the commercial capital Tel Aviv.

– ‘Matter of years’ –

The State Department has begun to plan the sensitive move of the US embassy to Jerusalem, a process that US diplomats say may take years to complete.

This week reports surfaced that Washington may temporarily designate the US consulate general in Jerusalem as the embassy while the search for a secure and practical site for a long-term mission continues.

This could prove just as controversial as building a new embassy, however, as the building currently serves as the US mission to the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.

And the facility sits astride the “Green Line” that divides Jerusalem.

A senior State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporters that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has yet to make a decision on either a permanent or interim location for the mission.

“That is a process that takes, anywhere in the world, time. Time for appropriate design, time for execution. It is a matter of years and not weeks or months,” he said.

Pence — himself a devout Christian — will visit the Western Wall, one of the holiest sites of Judaism in Jerusalem’s Old City, and pay his respects at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial.

by by Maram Mazen with Dave Clark in Washington

Palestinians say Jerusalem ‘not for sale’ after Trump aid threat

January 3, 2018

AFP

© AFP | Israel sees all of Jerusalem as its undivided capital, while the Palestinians view the east as the capital of their future state
RAMALLAH (PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES) (AFP) – 

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s office said Wednesday Jerusalem is “not for sale” after US President Donald Trump threatened to cut annual aid of more than $300 million to force them to the negotiating table.

“Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the state of Palestine and it is not for sale for gold or billions,” Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina told AFP, referring to Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The December 6 declaration led Abbas to say the United States could no longer play any role in the Middle East peace process.

“We are not against going back to negotiations, but (these should be) based on international laws and resolutions that have recognised an independent Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital,” Abu Rudeina said.

Trump made the funding threat in a tweet on Tuesday, saying: “We pay the Palestinians HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect.”

“With the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?”

It was not immediately clear whether Trump was threatening all of the budget, worth $319 million in 2016, according to US government figures.

The United States has long provided the Palestinian Authority with much-needed budgetary support and security assistance, as well as an additional $304 million for UN programmes in the West Bank and Gaza.

Such programmes are seen by many analysts, including Israelis, as helping maintain stability in the Palestinian territories.

Israelis see the whole of Jerusalem as their undivided capital.