Internal emails obtained by Foreign Policy reveal that Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, senior advisor, and chief envoy to the Middle East peace process, is quietly trying to do away with the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
If anyone has doubted that President Trump could deliver on his promise of a “deal of the century” for Israel and the Palestinian Authority, this most recent move should remove many doubts. Because nothing has been as harmful to the PA Arabs as this UN agency which Foreign Policy called “the UN relief agency that has provided food and essential services to millions of Palestinian refugees for decades.”
All the harm caused by UNRWA is expressed by this line. Because while the UN other refugee agency, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and all the other world organizations taking care, are busy finding relocation solutions, as well as jobs, housing, medical acre and education in their new home countries – UNRWA is about making sure Arab refugees who fled Israel 70 years ago, along with their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren remain stagnant in their camps, jobless and poor, gun fodder for terror organizations, completely dependent on the mercy of UNRWA – which has long since been taken over by the PLO and Hamas in their respective areas of control.
If the reports on the US administration actually planning to bury UNRWA are accurate, then maybe, for the first time since 1948, the few hundred thousands who fled Israel and have grown into an estimated 5.5 million (only about 25,000 actual Arab refugees are still alive), could finally find a hopeful future – in Canada, western Europe, north and south America.
“It is important to have an honest and sincere effort to disrupt UNRWA,” Kushner emailed Trump’s other Middle East peace envoy, Jason Greenblatt, and several other senior officials, on Jan. 11. “This [agency] perpetuates a status quo, is corrupt, inefficient and doesn’t help peace,” Kushner stated.
Yes, it is as corrupt as UN agencies can be (the sky is the limit there), and, no, it really does not help peace. It actually promotes a life of longing for a return to “occupied Palestine,” to Jerusalem, Jaffa, Acre, Lod, Ramle – al the cities, towns and villages which have long since been flourishing with the Jewish newcomers. By keeping these Arabs stuck in one place for two and a half generations, UNRWA is functioning as a regressive force in the area, fomenting inevitable hate and violence, even if its local leaders were not PLO and Hamas members – which they are.
One of the issues Kushner’s detractors have raised over the weekend, following the revelations that the US would like to see UNRWA close down by 2019 0r 2020 at the latest, has been the plan that Arabs in PA and Gaza refugee camps be allowed to own the land where they and their families have resided for 70 years, build permanent homes and live in normative communities, with the support of international donors, including the US.
Why haven’t the PLO and Hamas permitted these three million or so people to turn their tent and shack cities into actual cities? Because if they do, it would mean they have given up the hope of returning to Israel. And now they’re scared, watching as the permanent refugee shantytowns could possibly be turning into modern, prosperous settlements.
Writer and political analyst Akram Atallah told Ma’an that the Kushner leaks confirm that the US is harnessing all its capabilities to fulfill the Israeli demands, pointing out that the first to seek to undermine UNRWA has been Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, his 2017 speech at the UN General Assembly.
Atallah said that the US and Israel are working to end the final status issues in favor of Israel, adding that the issue of Jerusalem has been resolved in Israel’s favor and Trump is now working to settle the refugee issue. Meanwhile, the administration continues to support the Jewish settlements, which in turn will determine the future borders of a Palestinian state, should one ever be established.
Attallah predicted that the US and Israel would be successful because the PLO and Hamas are split, the region is fast sinking in chaos, and (we paraphrase), nobody cares. The same expert suggested that only through national unity can the Israeli-American plan be defeated, so no chance of that ever happening.
Finally, according to Foreign Policy, Kushner raised the refugee issue with the Jordanians abck in June, pressing Jordan to strip its 2 million plus registered “Palestinians” of their refugee status, making them inaccessible to UNRWA.
PLO executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi told Forign Policy that Kushner insisted those ex-refugees must be resettled in host countries, “whose governments can do the job that UNRWA was doing.”
Ashrawi said the Trump administration wants the Gulf states to compensate Jordan for its costs in moving the former refugees to better lives elsewhere.
“They want to take a really irresponsible, dangerous decision and the whole region will suffer,” Ashrawi said.
Or not. The PLO would suffer, for sure, as it stands to lose a hefty chink of its constituency who would be fleeing for better lives elsewhere.
The PLO chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, told reporters that Kushner is offering to take the $300 million the US has ben donating to UNRWA, and give the money to Jordan and other countries that would host the liberated refugees.
“All this is actually aimed at liquidating the issue of the Palestinian refugees,” Erekat said.
At last, he gets it.