(JTA) — Some 102 Democratic congressmen sent a letter to President Donald Trump calling on him to continue funding for U.N.’s Palestinian relief agency.
The State Department last month announced that it had put a hold on $65 million of the $125 million annual allocation to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, which distributes its assistance in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, as well as to refugee camps in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Days later, the State Department announced that a $45 million payment pledged for the UNRWA food aid program would also be held up.
According to UNRWA, the United States provided more than $350 million in aid to the organization in 2017.
“Continuing to freeze this aid will harm American interests by exacerbating the threats facing both peoples and reducing the United States’ ability to help the Israelis and Palestinians reach a two-state solution,” said the letter sent Thursday signed by more than half of the House Democratic Caucus.
“The deterioration in the near-term prospects for progress toward a negotiated peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would render a cut-off of US assistance all the more dangerous. Deliberately exacerbating the hardship of the Palestinian people and reducing the ability of their government to function would only contribute to the benefit of those who reject engagement. Extremist and anti-Israel groups would be all too eager to fill in the vacuum, deepening their hold in the region and expanding their destructive influence on the prospects for a peaceful resolution of the conflict.”
Reps. Peter Welch of Florida and David Price of North Carolina circulated the letter.
J Street, the liberal Middle East policy group, rallied lawmakers to sign the letter.