A pair of GOP lawmakers are single-handedly blocking the State Department from providing $75 million in food aid for Palestinian refugees.
Senator Jim Risch (Idaho) and Representative Michael McCaul (Texas) are the top Republican lawmakers on the Senate and House foreign affairs panels. They are currently preventing the State Department from providing funds for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
The UNRWA has long been the subject of scrutiny from Republicans, as it goes against Israeli interests by providing assistance to Palestinian people. The United Nations agency provides relief to over 6 million Palestinians.
The Trump administration had previously cut $235 million in funding for Palestinian assistance, which was restored by the Biden administration in 2021. For the 2023 budget, $75 million in food aid was granted to the UNRWA, which Risch and McCaul are now withholding.
Risch has expressed that he does not want the funds to fall into the hands of Hamas, a Palestinian Sunni-Islamic fundamentalist, militant, and nationalist organization that opposes Israeli occupation, and currently holds the majority in the parliament of the Palestinian National Authority. McCaul has not publicly provided the reason behind his decision.
The UNRWA recently issued a warning that if they do not receive the funds by September 1, they will not be able to restock their warehouses, which provide critical food supplies to be distributed to 1.2 million Palestinian refugees, including 500,000 children. Over 25 civil society groups wrote a letter earlier this month in support of the UNRWA, urging Risch and McCaul to release the funds.
“Absent these funds, a devastating humanitarian crisis looms with more than 1.2 million people potentially left without food as early as mid-September, including hundreds of thousands of innocent children who will be left hungry,” it reads . “Denying food assistance will strip away the last vestiges of hope for people in Gaza who simply yearn for a dignified existence."
It adds: "The repercussions of such a situation could also be catastrophic for regional stability, negatively impacting both Palestinians and Israelis alike.”