Letter to Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State - Dingell, Tlaib Lead Group of 54 Members in Calling for Resumption of Palestinian Humanitarian Assistance and Peacebuilding Programs
Dear Secretary Pompeo:
We are writing to request a resumption of humanitarian assistance and peacebuilding programs to address the continuing humanitarian crises facing Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the region, restarting these efforts are key to regional stability and security in the coming months. This includes funding for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), disbursing additional humanitarian assistance already appropriated by Congress, and restarting Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Management and Mitigation programming.
Swift restoration of humanitarian support to the Palestinian people through UNRWA is urgent. UNRWA's Commissioner-General recently announced the Agency is unable to meet its full payroll, leaving it able to pay only a portion of the salaries to 28,000 UNRWA staff for November, including health care workers and teachers. Having already cut its staff and ceased needed repairs and investments in its infrastructure, classroom sizes have been increased to 50 students per teacher, and physicians now see some 70 patients a day during the COVID-19 pandemic. Without immediate assistance, UNRWA faces the prospect, in short order, of having to terminate completely its essential humanitarian services to Palestinian refugees. The need for U.S. assistance to UNRWA is now greater than ever.
Additionally, restarting international disaster and development assistance through USAID is critical to addressing the long-term humanitarian challenges facing the Palestinian people. This funding -- which has already been appropriated by Congress through the Economic Support Fund -- supports additional public health and infrastructure projects that both address immediate health care needs while helping to build a sustainable economy that empowers the Palestinian people.
Finally, ensuring that Palestinians are able to participate in the Conflict Management and Mitigation program (CMM) is vital to building bridges and supporting people-to-people relationships that are a necessary precondition to a lasting peace in the region. Past Israel-Palestinian CMM programs include programs that bring together Israeli and Palestinian youth, promote cooperation on economic development, and foster improved civic engagement. Restarting Israeli-Palestinian CMM programming will help lay the groundwork for future diplomatic engagement between the two sides.
Resumption of humanitarian assistance and programming is imperative as we work to address the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the West Bank and Gaza. Moreover, it is consistent with longstanding stated U.S. goals of promoting regional peace and stability. Thank you for your consideration of this request.