Palestinians slam reported US plan to weaken UN ‘refugee’ agency

The Palestinians have vowed to fight a US plan to shut down UNRWA.

By: AP and World Israel News Staff

The Palestinians have denounced reported US attempts to undercut a United Nations agency that serves the so-called Palestinian refugees and their descendants.

The US-based Foreign Policy magazine has reported that in an email this year, Jared Kushner, Mideast adviser to President Donald Trump, called for a “sincere effort to disrupt” and ultimately dissolve the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

In previous US-led negotiations, the fate of Palestinian refugees and contested Jerusalem were to be settled in a peace deal. Palestinian officials now fear that the Trump administration is moving unilaterally to settle these issues in Israel’s favor.

Nabil Shaath, an adviser to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, alleged Sunday that the Trump administration is “pushing to impose facts on the ground, by realizing all of Israel’s demands.”

Abbas’ office stated Saturday that “the determination of the Palestinian leadership and the steadfastness of our people will foil all conspiracies to end the Palestinian cause, and our people have thwarted all previous attempts to undermine their legitimate rights.”

Palestinian ‘refugees’: Unique status and legacy

The Palestinians have a unique definition for their status as “refugees” which has permitted them to vastly inflate the number of Palestinian refugees. Specifically, refugee status for Palestinians is passed on to succeeding generations and is unaffected by citizenship from other countries, in contrast to the definition of refugee status for every other refugee population in the world.

Therefore, the vast majority of the “refugees” in Jordan, more than two million, are citizens of Jordan who identify as Palestinian.

Israel has argued for years that the UN and the Palestinians are working to perpetuate the Palestinian refugee problem and oppose any attempt to seek a solution.

Furthermore, the Palestinians’ status as refugees ensures an endless flow of international aid and has other financial ramifications.

A so-called Palestinian refugee receives quadruple the amount of aid that a Syrian, Iraqi or African refugee receives from the United Nations.

A study released in September shows that in 2016, UNRWA, which provides assistance solely to Palestinians, spent an average of $246 for each of the 5.3 million Palestinians it defines as refugees, while the UNHCR spent only a quarter of that, $58 per refugee, on non-Palestinians.

“UNRWA is an organization that perpetuates the Palestinian refugee problem. It also perpetuates the narrative of the right-of-return, as it were, in order to eliminate the state of Israel; therefore, UNRWA needs to pass from the world,” Prime Minister Netanyahu stated in January.

“This is an agency that was established 70 years ago, only for Palestinian refugees, at a time when the UNHCR (the UN refugee agency) deals with global refugee problems. Of course this creates a situation in which there are great-grandchildren of refugees, who are not refugees but who are cared for by UNRWA, and another 70 years will pass and those great-grandchildren will have great-grandchildren and therefore, this absurdity needs to stop,” the Israeli premier added.

Netanyahu offered a proposal: “UNRWA support funds need to be gradually shifted to the UNHCR, with clear criteria for supporting genuine refugees, not fictitious refugees as happens today under UNRWA.”