Palestinian Assistance Reform Act of 2018

September 6, 2018
September 6, 2018
Referred to Senate (sub)committee

This bill would reform U.S. support for the Palestinians, including that which is channeled through UNRWA, in a number of ways. First, it would establish a new policy to continue aid to the Palestinians that addresses urgent humanitarian needs, promotes peace in the region, improves security in the region, supports transparent and accountable government institutions, and promotes a private sector economy. The new policy would also provide for continued assistance to the Palestinians based on general humanitarian, security, and economic needs and urge UNRWA to re-define “refugee” to be consistent with U.S. law, effectively restricting the number of people eligible for UNRWA’s services.

Under those new policy goals, the bill would suspend all U.S. support for UNRWA unless the secretary of state can certify that UNRWA is conduction proper inspections of all its operations; acting promptly to address any violations of its policies; implementing procedures to maintain the neutrality of its facilities, including a no-weapons policy; taking steps to ensure that materials in UNRWA schools do not incite violence or prejudice; taking steps to improve financial transparency; working to integrate Palestinian refugees into their local communities and labor force; and has adopted a definition of “refugee” that only includes individuals who were personally displaced in 1948 (Palestinian refugees who have gained nationality in other countries and those who live in the West Bank and Gaza would be excluded under this new definition as well). The president would be permitted to waive this certification requirement for a year if he determines continued U.S. support for UNRWA is in the U.S. national interest. If the secretary is unable to make that certification and the president opts not to exercise that waiver authority, the secretary would be authorized to reprogram up to $360 m. in aid designated for UNRWA. The secretary would be authorized to direct those funds through the PA for health, education and other “necessary” services; certain vetted NGOs working in Gaza; the governments of countries where UNRWA operates for the types of services UNRWA provides; USAID, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, for Palestinians in Syria and Lebanon.

The secretary of state would be required to submit to Congress a new annual report on the number of people receiving UNRWA services who were personally displaced in 1948, who were descendants of such persons, and who were citizens of another country. 

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