Nov. 4, 2016
After Two Decades of PA Rule, Why Does UNRWA Still Operate in West Bank? – Evelyn Gordon (Commentary)
Nothing casts more doubt on the wisdom of the West’s drive for Palestinian statehood than the Palestinian Authority’s treatment of the West Bank refugee camps over its 22 years of existence.
The case for Palestinian statehood makes obvious sense in the abstract: Palestinians need a state where they can promote their people’s welfare, just as Jews need a state where they can promote their people’s welfare. It’s not that Israel did nothing for the Palestinians during its decades of governing the territories. Palestinian life expectancy jumped by 50% under Israeli rule, infant mortality plummeted by more than two-thirds, literacy rates and living standards skyrocketed. Indeed, every hospital and university in the West Bank was built by Israel, as were most of those in Gaza.
Israel left the refugee camps intact mainly because its one attempt to provide refugees with better housing back in the 1970s elicited such brutal opposition from the PLO – which threatened to kill refugees who accepted the offer – that it backed down. But the refugee camps are precisely the kind of open sore that Palestinian statehood is theoretically supposed to solve.
More than two decades after the PA’s establishment, schooling, healthcare and welfare allowances in the refugee camps are still funded wholly by UNRWA. Or, to be more precise, by the Western countries that fund most of UNRWA’s budget. Nor has the PA moved a single refugee into better housing. And this isn’t because Israel somehow prevented it from doing so. It’s because the PA has no interest in doing so.
The PA doesn’t see the refugees as citizens to be served, but as a weapon aimed at Israel. They are kept in miserable conditions for the express purpose of creating sympathy for the Palestinian demand that they all be relocated to Israel. The West should start by demanding that the PA finally dismantle those refugee camps and take the responsibility for their residents off UNRWA’s hands.
(Click on the article’s title to see the whole article…Ed.)