Quarterly Updates for (16 Feb 2018 — 15 May 2018)


Months after the United States and Israel pledged to walk away from the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) by the end of 2018 (see JPS 47 [2, 3]), Palestinian, Israeli, Jordanian, U.S., European, and other diplomats reached (4/12) a compromise on a new resolution, titled “Occupied Palestine.” The resolution, which UNESCO then passed (4/12) by consensus, criticized Israeli actions in Jerusalem and Gaza, but left the strongest language under discussion to a nonbinding annex. They also deferred further action on Israel and the oPt to the subsequent UNESCO session due to be held in 11/2018.


While the United States was blocking any attempt to have the UNSC condemn Israel’s deadly response to the Great March of Return protests in Gaza (see “The Palestinian-Israeli Conflict” above), the Palestinians and their Arab allies were campaigning against Israel’s bid to win a seat on the council. Israeli officials declared their candidacy in early 2017 but did little in the way of campaigning until early 2018. In order to win one of the two rotating seats allotted to the Western European and Others regional group, Israel needed the support of two-thirds of the UN General Assembly in a vote set for 6/8. Especially after the surge of violence in Gaza, it was unclear if it would be able to overcome mounting opposition from the Arab states and the rival candidacies of Germany and Belgium.

“We are doing everything possible to convince as many countries as possible to block [Israel’s bid],” PA foreign minister alMaliki said on 4/12, two weeks after Israeli troops began killing Palestinian protesters in Gaza. “We believe we can, as Arab and Islamic states,” he added, indicating that they had already secured the support of several European countries. Three weeks later, the Israeli delegation to the UN announced (5/4) that they were suspending their campaign.


Trump’s punitive cuts to U.S. contributions to UNRWA last quarter created an “unprecedented financial crisis” for the Palestinian people, according to UNRWA’s Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl on 3/5 (see JPS 47 [3] for more on the cuts). “If 525,000 students no longer have access to education, 3 million patients don’t have access to healthcare and 1.7 million don’t receive emergency assistance, we will see [a] catastrophic rise in insecurity.”

In an effort to address the new budget shortfall, the agency launched a fundraising campaign last quarter, dubbed “Dignity is Priceless,” and organized a donors’ conference in Rome on 3/15. The UN Central Emergency Response Fund transferred $30 million to UNRWA for its food aid program on 3/13 and Kuwait pledged $900,000 in early 2/2018 (see JPS 47 [3]), but UNRWA was still facing a deficit of $446 million, according to UN secretary-general Guterres at the 3/15 conference. Diplomats from ninety different countries collectively pledged approximately $100 million in new support, including $50 million from Qatar alone. Separately, the EU made (3/15) €82 million (approximately $101 million) available immediately. Krähenbühl said (3/15) that all of this support was “a start” and that the money would allow the agency to continue its core services at least through the summer. Although UNRWA received another $112.3 million in new pledges from Japan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Italy by the end of the quarter, it was still unclear if every UNRWA school would be able to open as planned in the fall.


As in recent years, the UN Human Rights Council adopted five resolutions related to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict during its thirty-seventh session in Geneva on 3/23. These condemned Israel’s settlements in the oPt as illegal; urged Israel to refrain from growing the population of the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights; called for recognition of the Palestinian right to self-determination; called for “ensuring justice” against violations of international law in the oPt; and called for the preservation of human rights in the West Bank and Gaza. While the Palestinians supported the votes, Israel’s Foreign Ministry condemned the UNHRC as a “sham” and “a mockery of the noble purposes it pretends to represent.”