Press Releases

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) today expressed concern over Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent announcement of more than $150 million of assistance to the United Nations Refugee and Works Agency (UNRWA), despite ongoing concerns about its conduct during the recent conflict in Gaza.

In a letter to Kerry, the senators highlighted three cases of rockets being found at UNRWA facilities as well as the absence of an independent investigation into its actions, and called on the Administration to assure Congress that U.S. assistance to the Gaza reconstruction effort will in no way aid extremists’ attacks against Israel.

“Given UNRWA’s record and the absence of an independent investigation into its actions during the conflict, we were dumbfounded when, on October 12th, you reiterated, without any qualification, that the United States would provide more than $150 million to UNRWA programs in Gaza,” wrote the senators. “This blind support sends the wrong message to an institution that has already become far too dependent on the largesse of the American taxpayer and repeatedly failed to ensure that its facilities and resources are not used by terrorists who wish to sow chaos and instability rather than aid the Palestinian people.

“The United States should assist the people of Gaza as they rebuild after yet another Hamas-caused conflict. But this support cannot come at the expense of Israel’s security,” added the senators. “We will not support the provision of future U.S. assistance to entities or projects in Gaza unless the State Department assures Congress that UNRWA or the relevant recipient entity has imposed independently audited accountability measures to verifiably prevent any U.S. assistance from aiding, directly or indirectly, extremists’ efforts to rearm or lay the groundwork for future attacks against Israel.”

In an August letter, Rubio and Kirk urged the State Department to launch an independent investigation into the role played by UNRWA in the conflict in Gaza. 

A PDF of today’s letter is available here. The full text of the letter is below:

October 22, 2014

The Honorable John Kerry
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Kerry:

We write to express our concerns about U.S. assistance to the Gaza reconstruction effort, especially donations to the United Nations Refugee and Works Agency (UNRWA).

In August, we wrote to you to request that the State Department launch an independent investigation into the role played by UNRWA in the recent conflict in Gaza.  As you know, during the conflict, rockets were found on UNRWA property on three separate occasions, and rockets were fired into Israel from the vicinity of UNRWA facilities on multiple occasions.  Information has also emerged regarding the potential exploitation of UNRWA’s distribution network inside Gaza by Hamas and other terrorist groups.  We received a response in September that the State Department is awaiting the findings of UNRWA’s ongoing internal investigation before considering further action.  It is unclear when that investigation will be completed or how truly independent it will be.

Given UNRWA’s record and the absence of an independent investigation into its actions during the conflict, we were dumbfounded when, on October 12th, you reiterated, without any qualification, that the United States would provide more than $150 million to UNRWA programs in Gaza.  This blind support sends the wrong message to an institution that has already become far too dependent on the largesse of the American taxpayer and repeatedly failed to ensure that its facilities and resources are not used by terrorists who wish to sow chaos and instability rather than aid the Palestinian people.

The United States should assist the people of Gaza as they rebuild after yet another Hamas-caused conflict.  But this support cannot come at the expense of Israel’s security.  We will not support the provision of future U.S. assistance to entities or projects in Gaza unless the State Department assures Congress that UNRWA or the relevant recipient entity has imposed independently audited accountability measures to verifiably prevent any U.S. assistance from aiding, directly or indirectly, extremists’ efforts to rearm or lay the groundwork for future attacks against Israel.

Without greater scrutiny of all U.S. funds being provided to entities in Gaza, it will be difficult to truly diminish Hamas’ and other terrorist groups’ influence in Gaza and will only make a resumption of violence more likely.

Sincerely,