The Biden administration will provide $235 million in aid, restoring funds cut by former President Trump. The US move upset the Israeli government.
US President Joe Biden on Wednesday restored aid to the Palestinians, promising $235 million (€198 million) in assistance to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, or UNRWA.
The funding "provides critical relief to those in great need, fosters economic development and supports Israeli-Palestinian understanding, security coordination and stability," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
The US State Department said the nation would contribute $150 million to the UN agency and give an additional $75 million in economic and development assistance for the West Bank and Gaza on top of $10 million for peacebuilding efforts.
The agency provides aid and relief services to around 5.7 million registered Palestinian refugees in the occupied West Bank, Gaza Strip and across the Middle East.
Historically the UNRWA counted on the United States as its top donor. But it has been facing a shortfall since Trump withdrew funds in 2018. The funding promise made Wednesday is still below the $355 million the US contributed in 2016.
The agency said its needs have been rising due to COVID-19 and the hardships faced by Palestinians living in war-torn Syria and economically troubled Lebanon and Jordan.
The new funding is in addition to an earlier $15 million coronavirus assistance support measure given to the Palestinians amid criticism that Israel, a leader in vaccinating its citizens, had not acted similarly for people in the territory it occupies and said that responsibility lies on the Palestinian Authority.
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How did the Israeli government react?
The Israeli government, which remains divided following recent elections, had largely refrained from criticizing the new Biden administration, but Wednesday's move was met with immediate indignation.
"I have expressed my disappointment and objection to the decision to renew UNRWA's funding without first ensuring that certain reforms, including stopping the incitement and removing anti-Semitic content from its educational curriculum, are carried out," Erdan said.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Lior Haiat also expressed his government's displeasure, "Israel's position is that the UNRWA in its present form perpetuates the conflict rather than helping to resolve it."
What have Palestinians said?
"We are eagerly awaiting the resumption not only of financial assistance but of political relations with the United States to allow the Palestinian people to achieve their legitimate rights for an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital," said Mohammed Shtayyeh, the Palestinian prime minister.
What have been the reactions of the UN and global community?
In contrast, the United Nations welcomed the restoration of US funding for the UNRWA.