Quarterly Updates for (16 Nov 2016 — 15 Feb 2017)

There was no meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Comm. this quarter. However, there was a steady stream of international aid pledged to the PA and the Palestinian people.

In a major reversal of policy on UNRWA, Canada’s Min. of International Development Marie-Claude Bibeau announced (11/16) that Ottawa would provide the agency $20 m. for general budget needs and $5 m. for its emergency appeal on Syria. “With this funding, Canada joins all other G-7 countries in supporting UNRWA’s efforts to meet the everincreasing needs of Palestinian refugees, assists in providing basic services for vulnerable people, and contributes to stability in the region,” the official govt. statement read. In addition, UNRWA received contributions from China (11/24), Saudi Arabia (11/28), the Netherlands (11/28), India (12/12), Germany (12/14), the EU (12/26), Italy (1/5 and 2/7), South Korea (1/25), Switzerland (2/2), and Denmark (2/8), totaling $119.627 m. (The agency was pledged $56.68 m. last quarter.) Switzerland also promised (2/2) to contribute $73.7 m. in 2017–20, and the Japanese fastfashion company UNIQLO donated (2/13) nearly $500,000 worth of winter clothes to Palestinian refugees in Burj al-Barajneh r.c. in Lebanon.

Also of note: U.S. actor and former Obama admin. staffer Kal Penn donated (1/2) $25,000 to UNRWA, which he won on a cookingthemed reality show. Addressing the 2.92 m. people who tuned in to ABC’s MasterChef Celebrity Showdown, Penn said, “I’m thrilled to be helping UNRWA do its critical work in Gaza and Syria. They’re a lifeline for so many families that have been struggling for decades to meet their basic needs and achieve their rights.”

While aid flows to UNRWA were slowly growing, the PA faced a massive budget crisis. PA PM Hamdallah said (1/3) that he expected a $1.06-b. deficit in 2017, meaning that deep budget cuts would be forthcoming. The shortfall was, in part, a result of the U.S. and EU redirecting aid dollars away from the PA, and Saudi Arabia putting a hold on its monthly disbursals (see “United States” above and JPS 46 [2]). The PA received only 1 new aid contribution this quarter, some €18.98 m. (approximately $20 m.) from the EU on 12/5.

The international community continued to support the Palestinian people in other ways. The World Bank board approved (12/2) a $5-m. grant to increase employment opportunities for Palestinian university graduates. The EU and Spain announced (12/17) a €21 m. (approximately $22 m.) donation for Palestinian families in need in Gaza and the West Bank. Japan pledged $47 m. (2/13) in new assistance to be disbursed through various international agencies, and also agreed (12/21) to pay $80,498 for the replacement of a water pipeline nr. Ramallah. In an address to the Arab League, Chinese pres. Xi Jinping announced (1/19) that Beijing would provide CNY 50 m. (approximately $8 m.) in aid to the Palestinians. Finally, senior Hamas official Haniyeh said (2/11) that Qatar had agreed to disburse $100 m. of $1 b. in reconstruction aid pledged at the 10/2014 international conference in Cairo for reconstruction in Gaza following Israel’s 2014 assault on the Strip (see JPS 44 [1, 2]).


Gaza Aid Scandal

The Israeli authorities released (1/12) UN Development Programme (UNDP) employee Wahid Abdullah al-Bursh approximately 6 mos. after arresting him on charges of diverting international aid supplies to Hamas (see JPS 46 [1, 2]). When his release date was publicized, the organization issued (1/4) a statement saying that the outcome of his case “confirms that there was no wrongdoing by UNDP.” Separately, the Beersheba District Court accepted the Israeli prosecutor’s proposal to add charges to the govt.’s case against Mohammad El Halabi, a Gazan employee of the Christian aid group World Vision, who was arrested on 8/4 and accused of channeling $43 m. to Hamas’s military wing. El Halabi argued that the additional charges were illegitimate and only intended as punishment for his refusal to accept a plea deal. He later pled (2/2) not guilty to all the charges, setting the stage for a full trial to begin on 2/23.