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Cablegate: Unrwa Proposes Compromise On West Bank Protesters'

VZCZCXRO6268
PP RUEHROV
DE RUEHJM #0600 0991244
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 081244Z APR 08
FM AMCONSUL JERUSALEM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1111
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 0145
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS JERUSALEM 000600

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

NEA FOR FRONT OFFICE, PRM FOR ANE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF PGOV IS
SUBJECT: UNRWA PROPOSES COMPROMISE ON WEST BANK PROTESTERS'
DEMANDS

REF: JERUSALEM 502

1. (SBU) Summary. Protests continue in all 19 West Bank
Palestinian refugee camps over dissatisfaction with UNRWA
assistance. UNRWA Acting Director for West Bank Operations
Sami Mshasha told RefCoord April 3 that UNRWA has proposed a
compromise to the camp committees to allow food distribution
to proceed. End Summary.

UNRWA Faces Continued Protests;
May Compromise on Food Assistance
---------------------------------

2. (SBU) The 19 West Bank refugee camp committees wrote UNRWA
Commissioner General Karen AbuZayd on March 27 to announce
protests every Wednesday at UNRWA West Bank facilities until
their demands for UNRWA to assist all West Bank refugee camp
residents, regardless of need, and rescind the decision to
reduce food rations for larger families. UNRWA Acting
Director for West Bank Operations Sami Mshasha told RefCoord
that protests began on March 10 (reftel) and continued as of
April 2 outside UNRWA's Hebron, Ramallah and Nablus offices,
preventing UNRWA staff in Ramallah from reaching work.
Mshasha said the protesters did not attempt to close camp
schools or health clinics.

3. (SBU) In 2008 UNRWA reports it intends to distribute food
to 35,000 West Bank refugee families four times throughout
the year, a decrease from 2007's total distribution, when
UNRWA provided food to 97,000 families twice. UNRWA told
RefCoord that the reduction is in response to increased food
and transportation costs, prompting an increase in cash
assistance and access to the job creation program but a
reduction in food distribution.

4. (SBU) In February, West Bank refugee camp committees
rejected UNRWA's 2008 food distribution plan. UNRWA
responded by proposing to increase the number of beneficiary
families to 60,000, while reducing ration sizes for large
families. The camp committees also rejected that proposal,
and the planned February food distribution still has not
taken place.

Compromise in the Works?
------------------------

5. (SBU) UNRWA Chief of West Bank Relief Services Ziyad Faraj
told RefCoord April 3 that, in response to the continued
protests, UNRWA is proposing to increase food rations for
refugee camp residents, but rations would be distributed
three times a year, vice four, and camp residents would be
less likely to receive cash assistance. UNRWA would still
employ needs-based criteria for food distribution. (Note: A
ration includes 30 kg flour, 6 kg sugar, 4 kg lentils, 4
liters cooking oil, and 2 liters milk. End Note). According
to UNRWA's latest proposal, food would be distributed as
follows:

-- Camp Residents: Families with 1 to 3 people receive 1
ration; 4 to 6 people receive 1.5 rations; and more than 6
people receive 2 rations. Distributions will occur 3 times
per year.

-- Non-Camp Residents: Families with 1 to 6 people receive 1
ration; and more than 7 people receive 2 rations.
Distributions will occur 4 times per year.

6. (SBU) If the committees agree to the new plan, Faraj said
UNRWA hopes the food distribution delayed since February will
happen "within days." However, Mshasha expressed concern
about the proposed compromise and argued that most refugee
women, who manage households, prefer cash distributions over
food assistance, because they can use the cash to extend
their credit at local groceries and supplement their
families' diets with food not included in the UNRWA ration.

WALLES

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