The Trump administration is withholding more than half of an aid package to a United Nations agency that helps Palestinian refugees.
The U.S. will still give $60 million to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency but is cutting $65 million from a planned $125 million contribution.
"It's money that's being frozen at this time," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said at a press briefing. "It's not being canceled. It's just being held for future considerations."
The move comes after President Trump questioned why the United States was sending so much money to the Palestinians given the lack of progress on peace talks.
“We pay the Palestinians HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect,” he wrote on Twitter earlier this month. “But with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?”
It's not only Pakistan that we pay billions of dollars to for nothing, but also many other countries, and others. As an example, we pay the Palestinians HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect. They don’t even want to negotiate a long overdue...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 2, 2018
...peace treaty with Israel. We have taken Jerusalem, the toughest part of the negotiation, off the table, but Israel, for that, would have had to pay more. But with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 2, 2018
But Nauert said the decision is “not aimed at punishing" anyone, but rather was made over concern about how UNRWA is managed. Some Israeli officials have accused the agency of bias against their country and supporting Palestinian militants.
Israel’s Ambassador to the U.N., Danny Danon, was pleased with the U.S.'s decision, saying that UNRWA “misuses the humanitarian aid of the international community and instead supports anti-Israel propaganda, perpetuates the plight of Palestinian refugees and encourages hate.”
“Just over the last year alone, UNRWA officials were elected to the leadership of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, UNRWA schools denied the existence of Israel, and terror tunnels were dug under UNRWA facilities,” Danon added. “It is time for this absurdity to end and for humanitarian funds to be directed towards their intended purpose -- the welfare of refugees.”
The United States is the largest single donor, having given $364 million to the agency in 2016, according to FoxNews.com. The administration is calling on other countries to “step up to the plate” and give more funding in its place.