Lawmaker says White House shares UNRWA concerns

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The sponsor of legislation urging greater accountability at UNRWA said the Obama administration has told him it "shares our concerns."

Speaking March 5 at a Capitol Hill news conference, U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman (D-N.J.) did not say the White House supports the nonbinding resolution on the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, the U.N. agency that provides aid to the Palestinians, but the administration is reviewing the legislation. Rothman said the administration had "been busy" in its first few weeks.

The New Jersey lawmaker said $140 million of the $900 million in aid that the administration had pledged to the Palestinians would go through UNRWA.

His resolution calls on UNRWA to make public a list of its employees so they can be independently verified for ties to terrorists. It also urges the organization to publish online copies of all the educational materials used in UNRWA-administered schools.

Rothman said the legislation, introduced earlier this year, has 22 co-sponsors equally split among Democrats and Republicans. Two of the co-sponsors, Reps. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Sue Myrick (R-N.C.), appeared with Rothman at the news conference.

An UNRWA official has said the agency periodically runs its employee lists by Israeli security officials, and UNRWA supporters say that while the organization has been politicized, it is the most effective method of delivering aid to Palestinians.

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