JERUSALEM: Palestinian refugees on Thursday welcomed the US announcement to renew humanitarian aid, marking a break with the Trump era.
President Joe Biden’s administration said on Wednesday it will provide $ 235 million to the Palestinians and restart funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which is helping 5.7 million Palestinian refugees. recorded.
It was the clearest sign to date of Biden’s apparent intention to reestablish ties with the Palestinians, who boycotted Trump’s White House for most of his tenure, accusing him of pro-Israel bias. .
“We are happy,” said Ahmed Odeh in Deheisheh refugee camp in Bethlehem, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. “The former US administration tried to stop these funds from the Palestinian people.”
“Any funding for refugee camps and refugees is goodwill and is good for us … people are not working or earning money, especially during the pandemic,” said Subhi Allian, 71. , in front of an UNRWA clinic in Far ‘a refugee camp near Tubas.
Most of the refugees registered by UNRWA are the descendants of 700,000 Palestinians who were driven from their homes or fled the fighting in the 1948 war that led to the creation of Israel.
Many want the right to return to their family’s former lands in pre-1948 Palestine, lands that are now in Israel. Israel rejects such a right as a demographic threat to its Jewish majority.
In a Twitter video on Wednesday evening, Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to the United States and the United Nations, expressed “his disappointment and objection” over the renewal of funding for the refugee agency without reforming it. .
“UNRWA schools regularly use materials that incite against Israel and the twisted definition used by the agency to determine who is a refugee only perpetuates the conflict,” he said. “It shouldn’t exist in its current form.”
The Biden plan will provide UNRWA with $ 150 million, and agency officials hope it will lead to more donations from the United States and others.
However, UNRWA commissioner-general Philippe Lazzarini told Reuters the agency “would still struggle” amid cuts in donations from elsewhere and cuts in their development budgets abroad. by Australia and Great Britain.
Two priorities were COVID-19 and Lebanon, where last week he found residents of the country’s largest Palestinian refugee camp to be more desperate than he had ever known them.
“When I was in Ein Al-Hilweh people said … that ‘we are dying of COVID or we are starving’ or that the last choice would be to try to cross the sea to go to Cyprus,” a- he told Reuters.
“Basically they say the current situation is between three different types of death for the people. This is how hopeless and stressful the situation is. “