Don­ald Trump has ques­tioned US fund­ing of UNRWA, the agency that sup­ports millions of Pales­tinian refugees. Is he right?

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE -


IF YOU want some Trump­bash­ing, I’m your man. This pres­i­dent is a bigot, a fool, a sex­ist — yup, I’m a fully signed up mem­ber of the Trum­ploathing club.

But I have to con­cede he has a point on aid and the UN, even if — if you’ll for­give the cliché – it’s just a stopped-clock mo­ment.

The US funds a quar­ter of UNWRA’s en­tire bud­get— $152 mil­lion in di­rect con­tri­bu­tions and a fur­ther $216 mil­lion sup­port­ing its work.

Not a penny of that is the Pales­tini­ans’ money. Ev­ery penny of it comes from US tax­pay­ers. And yet the mere sug­ges­tion that the US pres­i­dent might ar­gue there should be some sort of quid pro quo for the money is re­garded as some sort of out­rage.

But be clear what UNWRA is. It is not a refugee agency in the nor­mal sense of re­set­tling those who have fled their home. It is a body that ex­ists to keep Pales­tini­ans as per­ma­nent refugees — a wel­fare agency that has used bil­lions of US dollars to keep those it sup­ports in per­pet­ual de­pen­dency on the ba­sis that Is­rael is re­ally theirs. (And that’s with­out even men­tion­ing the hate that is taught in some UNWRA schools.) In re­turn for those bil­lions of dollars, the Pales­tinian lead­ers have had to do pre­cisely noth­ing to move to­wards a set­tle­ment with Is­rael. The money tap is never turned off.

Is it re­ally that wrong for Pres­i­dent Trump to point out that the US “gives them hundreds of millions of dollars” but gets “no re­spect” in re­turn?

Last month, he sug­gested that those coun­tries in re­ceipt of bil­lions of dollars of US aid might con­sider that point be­fore scream­ing about the US and then vot­ing against it at the UN.

There is no divine — or even earthly — im­per­a­tive that re­quires the US tax­payer to con­tinue on this same path. And just be­cause it is Pres­i­dent Trump who has pointed it out doesn’t make it wrong.


THE UNITED Na­tions Relief Works Agency was cre­ated to deal with a hu­man­i­tar­ian prob­lem: how to pro­vide tem­po­rary shel­ter, food, med­i­cal sup­port and ba­sic education to Pales­tinian refugees dis­placed with the es­tab­lish­ment of the State of Is­rael in 1948.

Even Is­rael makes mod­est con­tri­bu­tions to the agency and sup­ported its work in the knowl­edge that poverty and lack of education will spur more vi­o­lent re­sis­tance.

But Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is try­ing to dic­tate a peace res­o­lu­tion by force­fully sid­ing with the Is­raelis on two con­tentious is­sues: Jerusalem and the right of refugees’ re­turn.

Hav­ing lost any lever­age over the Pales­tinian gov­ern­ment, the White House is now turn­ing to re­mov­ing UN sup­port that is aimed at mit­i­gat­ing a hu­man­i­tar­ian prob­lem. Black­mail­ing the lead­er­ship this way will not work, just like pre­vi­ous ef­forts failed.

Mr Trump and his side­kick Nikki Ha­ley could not per­suade its al­lies — Saudi Ara­bia, Jor­dan, Egypt and those in Europe — not to vote against the US at the UN Gen­eral As­sem­bly, even af­ter warn­ing of fi­nan­cial pun­ish­ment. This case is no dif­fer­ent.

To­day, most Pales­tinian refugees live in the be­sieged Gaza Strip. Mr Trump’s ac­tions will not cause demon­stra­tions that will send Pales­tinian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas rush­ing to Wash­ing­ton to ac­cept what­ever dik­tats Mr Trump and his aides have to of­fer.

The ab­sence of a political strat­egy, which this ac­tion sig­nals, is ex­actly the op­po­site of what is needed now.

What does ex­ist is a naive US at­tempt to dic­tate a so­lu­tion on Pales­tini­ans while re­ward­ing the ag­gres­sor and oc­cu­pier who re­fuses to ac­cept in­ter­na­tional law.

Mr Trump is pun­ish­ing UNRWA and Pales­tinian refugees be­cause Mr Ab­bas re­jects an “ul­ti­mate deal” whose fea­tures are known to no one. If the early signs are any­thing to go by, it has no chance of suc­cess.


Pales­tini­ans protest against the United States for its de­ci­sion to recog­nise Jerusalem as Is­rael’s cap­i­tal

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