Seventy Democrat members of the House of Representatives have urged Trump’s administration to restore part of its aid to the UN Relief agency noting the money is necessary to alleviate suffering in the Gaza Strip.
The initiative came from the left-wing Middle East advocacy group J Street, The Times of Israel reports.
In a letter sent to Secretary of States Mike Pompeo and Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton, the lawmakers criticized the administration’s decision early this year to withhold $65 million of aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) following Palestinians’ refusal to adhere to US alleged deal of the century. The deal, according to Trump, will end the decades-long conflict between Palestinians and Israeli, but takes Jerusalem off the table.
Palestinians protested Trump’s decision to unilaterally recognize the old city as capital of Israel and to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. Palestinians hope to proclaim the eastern part of the holy city the capital of the future state.
Trump’s blasted the Palestinian protest as lack of respect.
“We pay the Palestinians HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect,” he tweeted on January 3.
The authors of the letter, Wisconsin Rep. Mark Pocan, California Rep. Barbara Lee, Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky and Kentucky Rep. John Yarmuth argued that the cuts of the budget was exacerbating an already-deteriorating situation that poses long-term security risks to Israel, the Israeli media reports.
“We urge you to immediately restore funding for humanitarian aid in Gaza because it plays a critical role in the larger US strategy to secure peace and stability in the region,” they said.
The Democrats urged the Trump administration to lobby Israel and Egypt to end blockades imposed on the Gaza Strip. They also called on the White House to help increase electricity supply to the enclave after Israel reduced provision following refusal by the Palestinian Authority (PA) to foot bills of electricity consummation by over 2 million people living in what aid agencies called world largest open prison.
“We believe the US should encourage all parties to increase access to electricity flow in Gaza to meet the critical need for reliable energy,” the letter says.
“We should also push our partners to ease the blockade on the movement of goods, equipment and people in and out of the territory, especially for materials and supplies related to critical projects like medicine, hospital supplies and water treatment.”
Israel in 2007 imposed a blockade on the enclave after Gaza-ruler Hamas movement fought out its rival Fatah, which dominates the PA.
Egypt since 2013 has also tightened the passage at Rafah border with Gaza on security grounds. Cairo has accused Hamas of harboring members of Islamic State group (ISIS) in the Sinai.