Foreign Affairs Committee Advances Cicilline’s Bipartisan Bill to Improve Humanitarian Situation In Gaza, Increase Oversight of Funding

Jun 28, 2018

WASHINGTON – The House Foreign Affairs Committee today approved Congressman David N. Cicilline’s (RI-01) UNRWA Accountability Act (H.R.5898) to force President Trump to outline his strategy with regards to U.S. assistance to the West Bank and Gaza, including the UN agency that plays a critical role in providing aid to Palestinian refugees.


“During his time in office, President Trump has inflamed tensions in the Middle East. His shifting, unwieldy policies have made a peace agreement more and more unlikely,” said Cicilline. “This bill will require the administration to clarify their policy towards funding for the West Bank, Gaza, and other Palestinian refugees.”


Cicilline’s bill, which is co-led by Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin (NY-01), requires that within 45 days, the Trump administration submit strategies for funding and policy towards the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and for bilateral assistance to the West Bank and Gaza.


UNRWA was established in 1949 to provide aid for Palestinian refugees and their descendants. President Trump, however, has withheld financial assistance for the agency since January because Palestinians have not shown him “appreciation or respect.” The Administration has also frozen funding for bilateral assistance programs, including food aid, which is typically administered by independent charity organizations. Gaza in particular faces a serious humanitarian crisis, exacerbated by the Hamas leadership which fails to govern the territory.


Along with his unilateral decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, Trump’s rejection of UNRWA, has complicated the Middle East peace process and contributed to the humanitarian crisis. Palestinians are now less likely to support contacts with U.S. negotiators than when he took office. 88% of Palestinians now view the United States as biased in favor of Israel.