New Congressional Letter Pushes Back Against Trump’s Dangerous Freeze on UNRWA Funds

February 8, 2018

J Street welcomes an important new letter, signed by 102 Members of Congress, which calls on President Trump to reverse his dangerous freeze of funds for UNRWA — the UN agency that provides essential services to over 1.5 million Palestinian refugees.

Led by Reps. Peter Welch (VT-AL) and David Price (NC-4), the letter affirms the importance of maintaining full contribution levels to UNRWA as a vital US and Israeli interest. Leading Israeli defense officials have warned that the freeze could further destabilize the region, threaten Israel’s security and exacerbate humanitarian crisis.

J Street was proud to support and advocate for this letter. Signed by over half of the House Democratic Caucus, it is a welcome signal that Members of Congress stand ready to push back against the disastrous foreign policies of the Trump Administration in the Middle East.

By withholding funding to an agency that provides critical services to millions of Palestinian refugees, the White House vindictively harmed some of the region’s most vulnerable people. Unless it is reversed, the decision will increase the prospects for unrest, extremism and violence. Indeed, the Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces warned the Israeli cabinet this week that the mounting humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which this funding freeze could make worse, could help trigger a new conflagration on Israel’s southern border.

As the letter notes,“US-funded projects to help meet the essential needs of the Palestinian people and strengthen institutions of Palestinian civil society help fight instability and corruption. This vital US assistance provides for the maintenance of security and stability for Israelis and Palestinians against attacks by extremist forces.”

Responsible elected officials and pro-Israel voices must make clear that this type of reckless punitive measure only exacerbates conflict, endangers lives and undermines the credibility of American leadership. If the Trump Administration continues to pursue this dangerous path, it is Israelis and Palestinians who will pay the price.  

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