Well, it’s a start.
The U.S. is freezing $65 million in aid that was designated to go to the United Nations agency that handles aid for Palestinian refugees.
The U.S. will still transfer $60 million to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), but will withhold $65 million of what was originally a $125 million tranche of funding.
“It’s money that’s being frozen at this time,” Heather Nauert, a State Department spokeswoman, said at a press briefing. “It’s not being canceled. It’s just being held for future considerations.”
Like, maybe they can stop propping up and rewarding terrorists with U.S. aid money?
Nauert said that additional U.S. funding will be dependent on changes being made at the agency, which provides health care and social services to Palestinians in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and neighboring countries.
Nauert further explained that this wasn’t a political decision, but rather, an indication that other nations need to step up and shoulder some of the load.
This is acting on a warning made by U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, who suggested funds to that agency would be withheld, if the Palestinians refused to return to peace talks with Israel.
After Trump’s announcement that the U.S. would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the Palestinians threw their hands up and refused to further talks.
Haley then told U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres that the $125 million in funding to UNRWA had been put on hold, according to a U.N. official.
The AP reported on Sunday that the plan to withhold only $65 million, instead of the entire installment, was proposed by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis as a compromise.
The U.S. is UNRWA’s largest single donor, and the agency relies heavily on that funding to carry out its work. In 2016, the U.S. donated $355 million to the agency.
UNRWA was first established in 1948 as an aid to Palestinians who found themselves uprooted, due to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Israel has complained that the agency holds an anti-Israel bias, while also supporting Palestinian militants.
The Palestinians have rejected the freeze as blackmail, and have insisted that they will not accept U.S. efforts to broker a peace deal in the region, arguing that the Jerusalem decision essentially disqualified Washington from doing so.
Maybe some of those nations like Jordan and Lebanon can put some pressure on the Palestinians to get back to the table, but I doubt it.
In the meantime, control the purse strings.