1. Press Release
  2. Middle East & Iran

FCNL Applauds 102 Reps Opposing Cuts in Aid to Palestinian Refugees

By Kate Gould, February 8, 2018

FCNL applauds the Welch-Price letter, signed by 102 members of Congress, opposing Trump’s cuts to the UN Agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA).


FCNL's Legislative Director for Middle East Policy Kate Gould made the following statement:

“President Trump’s deep cuts in U.S. financial assistance to Palestinian refugees mark an unprecedented move to slash U.S.-funded humanitarian aid for an explicitly stated political objective. FCNL applauds Rep. Peter Welch (VT) and Rep. David Price (NC) for leading this effort urging President Trump to reconsider this disastrous decision, and restore full funding for the life-saving humanitarian services that the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) provides.

In a perverse affront to the oft-stated guideline of U.S. humanitarian policy that ‘a hungry child knows no politics,’ these cuts to UNRWA use the hunger of Palestinian refugee children as a political tool.

As a broad coalition of faith organizations, of which FCNL is a part, have pointed out, ‘this action could lead to a trend toward politicizing humanitarian aid to other vulnerable communities around the world which would erode U.S. reliability and credibility internationally.’

The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) has worked for more than a century to promote a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. As people of faith, we applaud the 100 representatives opposing President Trump’s cuts to UNRWA, and we urge every member of Congress to speak out against the politicization of humanitarian aid around the world.”

See below for the list of signers to the Welch-Price letter and the full text of the letter.

The Friends Committee on National Legislation, the oldest registered religious lobby in Washington, is a nonpartisan Quaker lobby in the public interest. FCNL works with a nationwide network of tens of thousands of people of many different faiths from every state in the U.S. to advocate for social and economic justice, peace, and good government.


Welch, Price, Adams, Aguilar, Bass, Bera, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Beyer, Blumenauer, Blunt Rochester, Bonamici, Brownley, Butterfield, Capuano, Carbajal, Carson, Cartwright, Castro, Chu, Cicilline, Clark, Clarke, Cohen, Connolly, Courtney, Danny Davis, DeFazio, DeGette, DeLauro, DeSaulnier, Dingell, Doggett, Doyle, Ellison, Eshoo, Esty, Foster, Gallego, Gene Green, Grijalva, Gutiérrez, Hanabusa, Heck, Huffman, Jayapal, Jeffries, Hank Johnson, Kaptur, Keating, Kelly, Kennedy, Khanna, Kildee, Kind, Kuster, Langevin, Lawrence, Lee, Lieu, Loebsack, Lofgren, Lowenthal, Luján, Lynch, Matsui, McCollum, McEachin, McGovern, McNerney, Meeks, Moore, Moulton, Nadler, Neal, Nolan, Norton, O’Rourke, Payne, Perlmutter, Peters, Pingree, Pocan, Polis, Quigley, Raskin, Rush, Sánchez, Sarbanes, Schakowsky, Serrano, Shea-Porter, Slaughter, Adam Smith, Speier, Takano, Mike Thompson, Tonko, Tsongas, Velazquez, Visclosky, Watson Coleman, Yarmuth

February 8, 2018

Mr. President:

As strong supporters of the United States’ commitment to the security of the State of Israel and the safety and dignity of Israelis and Palestinians alike, we write to urge you to continue vital US contributions to the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) and bilateral assistance to the Palestinians. Continuing to freeze this aid will harm American interests by exacerbating the threats facing both peoples and reducing the United States’ ability to help the Israelis and Palestinians reach a two-state solution.

Alongside robust and expanding US aid to Israel, Congress has regularly appropriated funds to help bolster Palestinian quality of life and governance, both bilaterally and through contributions to UNRWA, and security in the region. This assistance also helps to improve the lives of millions of children in the Palestinian territories, where more than 50 percent of children live below the poverty line.

The Israeli Government deems UNRWA’s work providing basic services and education to Palestinian refugees so consequential for Israeli security that it has reportedly weighed in with your administration in support of maintaining US contributions to the agency, despite frequent criticism of it. Former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel (ret.) Peter Lerner wrote this month, “By weakening UNWRA and, consequentially, the Palestinian population even further, without a real administrative alternative, I believe that Palestinians will be even more susceptible to extremism and violence. This will not contribute to security or stability in the region.”

Similarly, US-funded projects to help meet the essential needs of the Palestinian people and strengthen institutions of Palestinian civil society help fight instability and corruption. This vital US assistance provides for the maintenance of security and stability for Israelis and Palestinians against attacks by extremist forces. As one Israeli security official said speaking on the condition of anonymity this month, “Cutting funding would not bring anything good to the situation. Doing this would end up making the Palestinian leadership even weaker.”

The deterioration in the near-term prospects for progress toward a negotiated peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would render a cut-off of US assistance all the more dangerous. Deliberately exacerbating the hardship of the Palestinian people and reducing the ability of their government to function would only contribute to the benefit of those who reject engagement. Extremist and anti-Israel groups would be all too eager to fill in the vacuum, deepening their hold in the region and expanding their destructive influence on the prospects for a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

Accordingly, we urge you to continue providing aid to UNRWA and bilateral assistance to the Palestinians to promote US interests, Israeli and Palestinian security, and the stability of regional US allies.


Kate Gould

  • Legislative Director, Middle East Policy

Kate Gould served as FCNL's Legislative Director for Middle East Policy. Kate was one of only a handful of registered lobbyists in Washington, D.C. working to advance human rights objectives and support diplomatic solutions to resolve disputes between the U.S. and Iran and the conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Israel/Palestine.