Donald Trump
Donald TrumpReuters

The State Department officially announced on Friday that the United States is ending its funding to UNRWA, the UN agency for “Palestinian refugees”.

“The Administration has carefully reviewed the issue and determined that the United States will not make additional contributions to UNRWA," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

“When we made a U.S. contribution of $60 million in January, we made it clear that the United States was no longer willing to shoulder the very disproportionate share of the burden of UNRWA's costs that we had assumed for many years. Several countries, including Jordan, Egypt, Sweden, Qatar, and the UAE have shown leadership in addressing this problem, but the overall international response has not been sufficient,” she added.

“Beyond the budget gap itself and failure to mobilize adequate and appropriate burden sharing, the fundamental business model and fiscal practices that have marked UNRWA for years - tied to UNRWA's endlessly and exponentially expanding community of entitled beneficiaries - is simply unsustainable and has been in crisis mode for many years. The United States will no longer commit further funding to this irredeemably flawed operation,” the statement continued.

“We are very mindful of and deeply concerned regarding the impact upon innocent Palestinians, especially school children, of the failure of UNRWA and key members of the regional and international donor community to reform and reset the UNRWA way of doing business. These children are part of the future of the Middle East. Palestinians, wherever they live, deserve better than an endlessly crisis-driven service provision model. They deserve to be able to plan for the future.”

The statement concluded by saying that the U.S. “will intensify dialogue with the United Nations, host governments, and international stakeholders about new models and new approaches, which may include direct bilateral assistance from the United States and other partners, that can provide today's Palestinian children with a more durable and dependable path towards a brighter tomorrow.”

The announcement ends ongoing speculation about the Trump administration’s plans regarding UNRWA. A report in The Washington Post earlier on Friday said that President Donald Trump will announce in September his decision to end all funding to UNRWA.

That story also said that the White House is expected to take the Palestinian Authority's insistence on the "Right of Return" for Arabs off the negotiating table and insist the organization slash the number of Arabs recognized as refugees. The State Department statement made no mention of this.

The U.S. decision to halt UNRWA’s funding was blasted by Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

“The consecutive American decisions represent a flagrant assault against the Palestinian people and a defiance of UN resolutions,” Abu Rudeineh told Reuters, adding, “Such a punishment will not succeed to change the fact that the United States no longer has a role in the region and that it is not a part of the solution.”

Shortly before the State Department announcement, senior officials in the Prime Minister's Office said that Israel supports the American move to stop funding for UNRWA but believes that a way must be found to transfer the money to other organizations or parties so that they can be used properly.

"Israel supports the American move. The fixation of the Palestinian refugees by UNRWA is one of the main problems perpetuating the conflict,” said the officials.

“It would be worthwhile to divert the money to other parties who will make good use of it for the welfare of the population and not for perpetuating the refugees,” they added.

The United States announced in January it would cut some of its funding to UNRWA, citing a need to undertake a fundamental re-examination of the organization, both in the way it operates and the way it is funded.

The organization has since received pledges of $100 million in additional funding from Qatar, Canada, Switzerland, Turkey, New Zealand, Norway, Korea, Mexico, Slovakia, India and France as a means of making up for the aid that was cut by Washington.

On Thursday, Jordan said it will host a fundraiser at the United Nations headquarters in New York next month to keep UNRWA afloat.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)