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Global Geopolitical Series: U.S. might cut aid to UN refugee agency over Jerusalem embassy votes

President Trump appears to be on the course to punish the United Nations after 128 members voted against the U.S. decision to move its Israeli embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Last December president Trump announced the move, which prompted angry backlashes from foes like Iran and friends like the United Kingdom, European Union. Due to the U.S. veto, a proposal forwarded by Egypt which calls on all nations to refrain from recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital could not be adopted despite all other members of United Nations’ Security Council (UNSC) voting in favor of it. The vote, where all members except the United States voted in favor made it clear that the United States remain isolated in its decision to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. After the vote, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley called the united front against Washington an insult, which will not be forgotten.

Trump now wants to cut funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) which has received over $5 billion in US aid since 1994. In 2016, the US gave the agency over $368 million and financed more than 30 percent of its overall budget. UNRWA is entirely dependent on voluntary contributions from UN member states. And as always, one should take Trump’s threat seriously as he has already announced intention to withdraw from the United Nations’ cultural organization UNESCO citing anti-Israeli bias.

Speaking in New York on Tuesday, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley said, “The President has basically said that he doesn’t want to give any additional funding, or stop funding until the Palestinians are agreeing to come back to the negotiating table…..What we saw with the resolution was not helpful to the situation. We're trying to move for a peace process, but if that doesn't happen, the president is not going to continue to fund that situation…… We very much still want to have a peace process, nothing changes with that. The Palestinians now have to show the world they want to come to the table," Haley said. "As of now, they're not coming to the table, but they ask for aid. We're not giving the aid, we're going to make sure they come to the table and we want to move forward with the peace process."  

The comments came from Haley after Trump’s angry tweets saying, “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... ...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?”

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