US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson supports developing a sustainable funding mechanism for UNRWA, but it is unclear whether he can convince anyone else in the Trump administration of such an approach.
A Palestinian employee of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency holds a sign during a protest against a US decision to cut aid to the organization, Gaza City, Gaza Strip, Jan. 29, 2018.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson supports a sustainably funded United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which departs from the position of the Donald Trump administration. He made the assertion during a Feb. 14 press conference in Amman with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi.
On the topic of US funding for UNRWA, Tillerson remarked, “[The United States] did release $60 million in order to ensure that teachers’, hospital workers’ salaries would continue to be paid uninterrupted.”
Tillerson made no mention of the publicly stated reason why the United States withheld another $65 million on Jan. 16 that had been committed to the UN agency to help cover its $800 million annual budget. Both Trump and his UN ambassador, Nikki Haley, have conditioned aid to UNRWA on the Palestinian’s “return to negotiations.”
Tillerson correctly noted in Amman that UNRWA is a UN agency, not a Palestinian organization. As such, he stated, “The UNRWA funding is an international commitment. Many countries are donors to UNRWA. And part of, I think, what we would like to see — and I know the foreign minister and I have had many discussions about this as well — is we need to put UNRWA on a more sustainable footing.”
The idea that a senior US official is talking about a sustainable funding model for the agency is diametrically opposed to Trump’s earlier moves to politicize UNRWA. Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations, welcomed Tillerson’s comments. “We have been opposed to politicizing UNRWA, and I am happy that Mr. Tillerson is dialing back the attempt to insert politics into this important humanitarian agency,” Mansour said, speaking to Al-Monitor by phone from New York.
While Mansour welcomed the change in tone by the top US diplomat, he questioned the willingness of the United States to pursue the sustainable funding issue to its natural conclusion. “If we want to make UNRWA sustainable, we need to increase the UN’s contribution to its annual budget, bring in major economic entities like the World Bank and ensure that international support to UNRWA is multi-year and not made in short-term contributions.”
Mansour said that the United States’ expectation that Arab countries could contribute more to UNRWA is unrealistic. “Arab countries have pledged to cover 7.8% of UNRWA’s annual budget, and they have lived up to this commitment. It is difficult to ask them to pay more while they have so many other challenges in the region.” The percentage, established decades ago, was reconfirmed by the Arab League in 2009.
The United Nations pays the salaries of 120 senior personnel at UNRWA, which employs some 30,000 persons. Mansour said that in 1973, the United Nations had agreed to pay senior UNRWA staff directly from UN headquarters in New York. “We need to expand on that by having a much bigger part of UNRWA’s needs come from the UN annual budget,” said Mansour.
Mansour is skeptical that this will happen. He said that attempts to suggest doing so to Haley were summarily rebuffed. “She told me to remove Article 7 from the agenda of the United Nations Human Rights Council, and the US will ensure sustainable funding from the UN. Article 7 makes discussion of the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories a permanent agenda item at the Geneva-based council. According to the UN Human Rights Commission, the permanent agenda article reads ‘Human Rights Situation in Palestine and Other Occupied Arab Territories.’”
Mansour said he was promised plenty of money to keep UNRWA working for years if that agenda item were removed. “I told her that I represent Palestine in the UN in New York and that she should take this up with the Human Rights Council representatives in Geneva.”
The idea of sustainable financial support was well-received by UNRWA headquarters. Christopher Gunness, the UNRWA spokesman in Jerusalem, told Al-Monitor that the UN agency welcomes efforts to place UNRWA on sustainable financial footing, saying that it is in line with the 2017 report of the UN secretary-general, which was endorsed by the UN General Assembly. The report deals with the organizational sustainability of the UN and its subsidiaries.
“We welcome efforts to place UNRWA on a financial footing which allows sustainable, sufficient and predictable funding,” Gunness said. “[UNRWA’s] current unprecedented financial crisis shows more than ever before the urgent need for the international community to achieve this aim in reality and on the ground, which it has endorsed at the diplomatic level.”
Mansour said he doubts Tillerson’s welcomed position will win the day in Washington. “[Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu wants UNRWA gradually shut down and replaced by a smaller UN agency, while most Republicans in the US are ideologically in favor of major reductions in financial aid, including US money going to the UN,” Mansour noted.
UNRWA is an important humanitarian agency whose sustainability should not be politicized. Support for the welfare of Palestinian children forced to live as refugees because of successive wars in the Middle East should not be a political football to be kicked around. The idea of a sustainable funding mechanism is a necessary one, and there is a clear international consensus on it. The time is now to turn this global will to help Palestinian refugees into a stable funding mechanism.
A screenshot of the “Make Israel Palestine Again” T-shirt that was being sold on Amazon.
Amazon is no longer selling a T-shirt that reads “Make Israel Palestine Again” amid outrage from consumers and followers of the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT), a nonprofit that tracks radical Islam.
A screenshot of the “Make Israel Palestine Again” T-shirt that was being sold on Amazon.
British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. Photo: Reuters / Pierre Albouy.
UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn — longed dogged by antisemitism accusations — is facing a fresh round of criticism and calls for his resignation following the publication this weekend of photos of him laying a wreath at a memorial in Tunisia for Palestinian terrorists who perpetrated the 1972 Munich Massacre.
Last week, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis had changed the Catholic catechism. After 2,000 years of teaching that a moral use of capital punishment for murder is consistent with Catholic teaching, the pope announced that the catechism, the church fathers and St. Thomas Aquinas, among the other great Catholic theologians, were all wrong.
And God and the Bible? They’re wrong, too.
Syrian Kurds could be a wild card in a possible showdown between Damascus and Ankara; Russia keeps the peace, for now, on the Israel-Syria border; Israel may have opened a new front of secret assassinations; the political economy of Iran’s protests.
Syrians gather at the site of a car bomb in the northwestern Syrian city of Idlib, Aug. 2, 2018.
The killing of a Syrian missile-engineer, widely attributed to the Mossad, is likely meant to serve as a message that the lives of those developing weapons against Israel are in danger.
A Syrian soldier inspects the wreckage of a building described as part of the Scientific Studies and Research Center compound in the Barzeh district, north of Damascus, during a press tour organized by the Syrian information ministry, on April 14, 2018.
The mass Muslim migration to Europe has galvanized civilizationist forces of populism and nationalism across the continent. This happens in three different ways, as shown by recent elections:
* In Hungary, the civilizationist part on its own forms the government.
* In Austria, the conservative party joined in a coalition with the civilizationist party.
* In Italy the anarchist-left Five Star Movement formed a coalition with the civilizationist party.
The 73rd anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where two nuclear weapons killed at least 129,000 people—most of them civilians, with thousands more dying years later due to indirect injuries and radioactive exposure—is a worthy time for introspection, where we should ask ourselves, “What have we learned from such a tragic event?”
Simply put, very little.
If the current violence between Israel and the Hamas terrorist regime in Gaza escalates into a full-scale war, one thing is certain. The main thoroughfares of the West’s great cities will be filled with thousands of protesters marching in support for Hamas and its strategic goal of annihilating Israel.
The anti-Israel demonstrations this time around will dwarf all those that preceded them.
We also know with mathematical certainty that Jewish institutions and Jews will be violently assaulted from London to Melbourne, Paris to San Francisco.
What does the future hold for Iran?
The American sanctions on Iran went into effect this week and a large number of companies stopped doing business with Iran so as not to lose their permission to continue to be active in America’s economy. The sanctions will turn more severe in three months time and will include banks and energy industries, with the result that Iran will lose much of its income, the major part of which stems from oil, gas and related products.
I’ve written recently about the “Christ at the Checkpoint” conference that is now opening a branch/front in the U.S. From October 15-18, in Oklahoma City, this diabolical group of anti-Israel, pro PLO narrative activists has now released a speaker’s list.
It’s a Who’s Who of Christian Palestinianists, including Gary Burge, Bob Roberts Jr., the overtly anti-Semitic Stephen Sizer, and Gerald McDermott.