The UNRWA’s financial crisis is a fabricated political crisis caused mainly by the US. The international organisation does not suffer from a financial crisis as much as it is subject to attempts to subjugate the agency to political decisions that aim to liquidate the Palestinian refugee issue and reduce the services provided to them. There is strong American effort being made behind the scenes, for a long time, to end the agency’s operations and transfer its tasks to host countries. However, the situation has become heated after the blatant crudeness of President Trump’s policies, his bias in favour of Israel’s positions, and his administration’s attempt to pass the “deal of the century” that affects the core of the Palestinian refugee’s issue and their right of return.
Republican US House of Representatives member Doug Lamborn announced that he is seeking to enact a new law that considers the number of Palestinian refugees to be only 40,000, thus reducing American support for the UNRWA by limiting the definition of Palestinian refugees to those displaced during the Nakba, only those who are alive and not including their offspring. Some informed sources have revealed that President Trump’s son-in-law and advisor, Jared Kushner, is working to strip two million Palestinian refugees of their refugee status, as he believes the UNRWA “perpetuates a status quo, is corrupt, inefficient and doesn’t help peace.” The same sources revealed the magnitude of Kushner’s hostility towards the UNRWA, as in one of his letters to senior White House official and Middle East Peace Envoy, Jason Greenblatt, he wrote, “It is important to have an honest and sincere effort to disrupt UNRWA.”
The Agency records confirm that the number of Palestinian refugees and their children and grandchildren in the world is 5.2 million refugees, while Doug Lamborn insolently says refugee status is confined to the first generation.
Meanwhile, the UNRWA defines a Palestinian refugee as an individual whose natural place of residence was Palestine between June 1, 1946, and May 15, 1948, and who lost their home and livelihood as a result of the conflict occurring in 1948. It considers Palestinian refugees to be the people who the definition above applies to and those who descend from parents fitting this description.
American efforts occur within a clear objective, i.e. to remove the refugee issue from the negotiations tale, as well as cancel the UNRWA as it is considered the main reason for the continuation of the refugee issue. It also falls within the context of a widespread campaign by the Trump administration and its allies in Congress, to strip the Palestinians of their refugee status in the area and exclude their issue from the negotiations. The Trump administration is working to re-formulate the conditions of the Palestinian refugee issue in favour of Israel, as it did with moving the embassy to Jerusalem, by withdrawing Washington’s recognition of the UNRWA. Instead, it would recognise the agency as a commission for refugees in general. The next step would be Washington’s announcement of stopping all funding of the Agency’s activities in the West Bank and asking Israel to reconsider the mandate it has granted the UNRWA in the West Bank. This aims to prevent the Arab countries from funding the UNRWA after the American administration cuts UNRWA funding.
Of course, Israel views the upcoming American measures against the UNRWA and the definition of the Palestinian refugee as another historic step by President Trump and his team, who regularly see the truth for what it is. After the issue of Jerusalem and moving the American embassy to it is over, they are now cancelling the right of return. This is a significant obstacle in the way of the negotiations, and the US has wholly adopted the Israeli position,” according to some Israeli newspapers.
In any case, no Palestinian party, no matter how high, can accept what the United States is seeking for the Agency, and the issue of Palestinian refugees, who make up about 65 per cent of the people of Palestine at home and abroad. The point of refugees and their right to return by UN resolution 194 are the core of the national cause of the Palestinian people.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.