J Street welcomes recent moves by the Biden administration to restore critical humanitarian, security and refugee assistance to the Palestinian people and to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which plays a vital role in providing for the basic needs of millions of Palestinian refugees.
These moves begin to undo the damage done by the Trump administration, which unilaterally and harmfully cut off virtually all forms of US assistance to the Palestinians — over the objections of leading members of the Israeli security establishment, who warned that this assistance is needed to avert humanitarian crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and prevent further instability. The US could not hope to play an effective diplomatic role as an honest broker between the parties while it had unilaterally cut off all forms of US assistance to, and shuttered diplomatic offices that were critical points of contact with, the Palestinians.
The administration announced today that it will disburse $150 million of congressionally appropriated refugee aid funds to UNRWA, along with $75 million in bilateral assistance to the Palestinian people and $10 million for peace-building programs on the ground, on top of $15 million in COVID pandemic relief aid. This aid will help to alleviate suffering and to ensure that Palestinians in need have access to housing, food, medical care and education. They have also restored $40 million in previously frozen funds to assist security cooperation between Palestinian security forces and Israel, which plays a critical role in combating the threat of extremist violence and terror against both Israelis and Palestinians.
These funding moves are important first steps toward fulfilling commitments made by President Biden and the Democratic Party during the presidential campaign. Other urgent and necessary steps include reopening diplomatic missions, fully reversing harmful Trump administration actions to legitimize Israeli settlements and occupation of Palestinian territory, and making clear that actions by either side that undermine the prospects for conflict resolution will be met by meaningful consequences.