Trump Administration Cuts Funds For Palestinian Refugee Aid Program

Sep 2, 2018
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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

The Trump administration has reversed decades of U.S. policy and taken Israel's side on some of the most sensitive issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. First, President Trump formally recognized the contested city of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Now the Trump administration is cutting funds to the United Nations program for Palestinian refugees, as NPR's Daniel Estrin reports from Jerusalem.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: For years, the U.S. was the largest single donor to U.N. schools and health clinics serving Palestinians in refugee camps, from the West Bank and Gaza to Jordan and Lebanon. Now the U.S. says it won't give any more money. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley.

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NIKKI HALEY: You're looking at the fact that, yes, there's an endless number of refugees that continue to get assistance.

ESTRIN: In 1948, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were driven out of their homes when Israel was founded. Today, the U.N. considers their grandchildren and great-grandchildren refugees, too, totaling more than 5 million. Israel accuses the U.N. of perpetuating Palestinian hopes of returning to land that is, today, Israel. Haley offered another reason the U.S. withheld money.

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HALEY: The Palestinians continue to bash America.

ESTRIN: After President Trump endorsed Israel's claims to Jerusalem, Palestinian leaders cut ties with the U.S. Then the Trump administration cut about $200 million for development projects and humanitarian aid in the West Bank and Gaza. And now it's cutting about $300 million to UNRWA, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees. Chris Gunness is spokesman.

CHRIS GUNNESS: The implications for some of the most vulnerable and desperate and isolated and marginalized communities on our planet, people who are receiving an education, primary health care, relief and social services from UNRWA, for them, this is absolutely devastating.

ESTRIN: He says the U.N. only has enough money to run schools for Palestinian refugees until the end of the month. Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi calls the U.S. funding cuts inhumane and reckless and targeting the most vulnerable Palestinians. Daniel Estrin, NPR News, Jerusalem. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.