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USA freezes $125 million grant to Palestinian 'refugees'

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US Delays $125m Payment to UN Agency for Palestinian Refugees

Israeli Prime Minister, Benyamin Netanyahu, supports a gradual cutback of the USA funding to the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinian refugees, according to Israeli reports. Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, later told reporters the administration would cut off aid if the Palestinians refused to take part in peace talks with Israel.

The agency says there are 5 million refugees eligible for its services.

Trump also threatened last week to cut aid to the Palestinians, and Netanyahu offered him praise in his own comments Sunday. "As the President has said repeatedly, the administration is firmly committed to pursuing a comprehensive peace between Israelis and Palestinians", the USA official said on condition of anonymity.

"They don't even want to negotiate a long overdue peace treaty with Israel", the United States leader added. "We have taken Jerusalem, the toughest part of the negotiation, off the table, but Israel, for that, would have had to pay more".

The threats are clear financial and political blackmail aimed at twisting the arm of the Palestinians in order to make them accept the USA demands to end the conflict with Israel, observers said.

But analysts say that the aid helps maintain stability in a volatile region, and an unnamed Israeli security source told Channel 10 Friday that the U.S. funding cut would make the already dire humanitarian situation in Gaza "much worse". Today, more than 1.5 million Palestinians live in refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Trump's decision on Jerusalem and announcement in December that the United States would start the process of moving its embassy from Tel Aviv enraged the Palestinians who said the United States can no longer broker peace with Israel. "The UN has an agency for dealing with refugees in the rest of the world".

"Contrary to reports that we have halted funding to UNRWA, the decision is under review", a State Department official told The Times of Israel.

Peace talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis have been stalled since 2014 due to Israel's continued expansion of Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories.

Similarly, it is doubtful he can offer anything to the Palestinians that would induce them to accept the loss of East Jerusalem in exchange for the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza (assuming Israel would agree to even that).

Despite public condemnations of President Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, leaders of Sunni Muslim nations are quietly green-lighting what amounts to a tectonic change in the relationship of the Arab world with the state of Israel.

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