Jan. 18, 2018
It has now made the news that the US will be delivering to this agency only $60 million of the $125 million in American funds that was expected at this time. That $125 million itself represents only a portion of the full US commitment for the year of $370 million. (UNRWA functions via private donations; it is not supported directly by the UN.)
According to a State Department spokesperson, “Without the funds we are providing today, UNRWA operations were at risk of running out of funds and closing down. The funds provided by the United States will prevent that from happening for the immediate future.”
Additional payments await “consideration” by the administration: “There is a need to undertake a fundamental reexamination of UNRWA, both in the way it operates and the way it is funded.”
This decision to make a partial payment now represents a victory for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who advised taking this path, over US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, who was pushing for a total withholding of funds.
The State Department spokesperson explained (emphasis added):
“This is not aimed at punishing anyone. The United States Government and the Trump administration believe that there should be more so-called burden sharing to go around….”
True enough, but an interesting statement, since just days ago President Trump had declared:
“We pay the Palestinians HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect. But with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them.”
If it was a punitive action, it would have made more sense if funds that go directly to the PA would have been cut. But in any event, efforts to reform UNWRA are long over-due.
Israel is applauding the current US position. When reports of a US cut in funds first surfaced, Prime Minister Netanyahu expressed concerns. Gaza is on the cusp of a humanitarian crisis (generated by Hamas and the PA); cutting funds from the agency that provides humanitarian assistance is bound to exacerbate that crisis and promote additional violence. Netanyahu, I believe, advocates gradual cuts.
The over-riding question in all of this is how UNWRA might be reformed. This is an issue of enormous complexity with roots going back almost 70 years.
UNRWA was structured as a weapon against Israel. The only agency devoted to a single refugee population, it operates with rules that are different from those of UNHCR, the UN High Commission for Refugees, which cares for all other refugees.
UNHCR works to eliminate refugee status and assists in the resettlement and integration of refugees in new locales when they cannot return to their former homes.
UNRWA, on the other hand, perpetuates the myth that people who left Israel in 1948-49 remain “refugees” until they return to their original homes. Not only do they sustain that refugee status for people who left homes in Israel even if they have achieved citizenship elsewhere, they confer the status of “refugee” on the children and grandchildren of those original refugees. The Palestinian Arab “refugee” population is the only one in the world that increases rather than diminishing.
UNRWA maintains that these “refuges” have a “Right of Return,” although no such right exists. They base this on UN General Assembly Resolution 194, which said nothing of the kind, and was, in any event, only a recommendation, as GA resolutions carry no weight in international law.
To promote this agenda, UNRWA maintains “refugee camps,” which encourage dependency (sort of a welfare mentality on steroids). It fosters in the “refugees” a continuing sense of disenfranchisement, which promotes anger. The “refugees” are led to believe that they have to suffer now to achieve their rights later.
This attitude is developed in many ways, but most specifically within the UNRWA school system and summer camps.
Please! Take the time to watch this video from David Bedein’s Center for Near East Policy Research. He sends Arab film crews into UNRWA schools and camps to capture the truth. This particular video was filmed during the knife intifada two years ago. It will make your blood run cold and provide a clearer understanding of the situation.
And there is more: The situation in which the “refugees” find themselves renders them prime subjects for recruitment into Hamas, and this is precisely what has happened. UNRWA is in bed with Hamas, and has been for many years. There are Hamas teachers in UNRWA schools, and recruitment is done right in those schools.
This is a situation so pervasively lethal that the success of reforms remains in doubt.
What I see happening now is that the $65 million being withheld by the US will be donated by other nations. UNRWA has begun a major emergency fund-raising campaign, and Belgium has already pledged $23 million. And so, the US goal of having the fiscal responsibility shared by other nations may be accomplished, but the funds cutback by the US will not foster reform.
Daniel Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum, says that UNRWA has artificially expanded the refugee population from 600,000 in 1949 to 5.3 million now, while an accurate count of real refugees now alive numbers around 20,000.
“Therefore,” concludes Pipes, “while enthusiastically endorsing Trump’s political goals, I suggest that withholding funds is not the right tactic. Better…to focus on the ‘Palestine refugee’ status.”
Michael Rubin, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, has a very different take (emphasis added):
“UNRWA has become the poster child for U.N. bureaucratic bloat, mission creep, and twisted morality…
“UNRWA was founded in 1949 to help Palestinian refugees displaced by Israel’s war of independence. Even that decision was questionable.
“In a 1951 report to the UN General Assembly, UNRWA reported, ‘There must be a firm goal of terminating relief operations. Sustained relief operations inevitably contain the germ of human deterioration.’ It was right, but… Arab states like Egypt, Syria, and Iraq quickly concluded that they could use UNRWA to…transform an aid agency into a weapon against Israel.
“The rest is history.
“Nor does UNRWA’s track record make it worth saving…UNRWA has helped make the Palestinians the largest per capita recipient of aid on earth, but has the least to show for it.
“The problem isn’t just waste of money, however. Almost a quarter-century after the Palestinian Authority began, UNRWA has eroded rather than supported the foundations of good governance. After all, if UNRWA promises to take care of housing, education, and support, why shouldn’t both the Palestinian Authority and their sometime-partner Hamas spend money on terror pensions, terror tunnels, and an arsenal of rockets?…
“…UNRWA denials of complicity in such activities [schools used as arsenals, school books teaching incitement, UNRWA employees moonlighting as bomb makers], if taken at face value, are just acknowledgment of its own poor oversight.
“It’s long past time to cut off UNRWA and ask UNHCR to take over. The Palestinians deserve an apolitical agency rather than an amplifier for radicalism and waste…”
I am, generally speaking, hesitant to report on rumors, which very quickly become absorbed as “facts.” But the following has made the news big-time and so I share it, with a caution that there is no confirmation of what has been reported.
It is being said that Abbas’s ranting at the PLO Central Committee meeting was generated by information he had received when a top PA official was summoned to Riyadh. Allegedly, Abbas declared a refusal to cooperate with peace negotiations because the Saudis had leaked a preliminary version of Trump’s plan that infuriated him.
The reported leak described a plan that would give the Palestinian Arabs something less than a full state, and would not be based on the “1967 lines.” Israel would control security and would retain the Jordan Valley, “settlements” would be permitted to remain.
According to this report, it was the news about the plan and not Trump’s declaration on Jerusalem that generated the fury, and the curse, and the insistence that Oslo was dead.
But Abbas is still carrying on about Jerusalem. In a speech in Cairo on Wednesday, he declared: “[Jerusalem] is the gate of peace and war, and Trump must choose.” This is a not-so-veiled threat of violence if the PA is not accorded rights to Jerusalem.
One report I read quoted a PA official as saying that Abbas is focusing on the Jerusalem issue as a way out of having to negotiate, rather than dealing with Trump’s plan.
Trump’s response to this story was that the plan has not been completed yet, and it would be better if Abbas waited to see what it is about. Trump indicated that his team would keep at it.
My response, if this leak is valid, is that for the first time we have a president who begins to get it right. One American administration after another – but especially Obama – spoke about returning to the “’67 borders,” sharing Jerusalem, etc. etc.
However, I have another comment as well. I’ve said this at least a dozen times already, and will likely say it at least a dozen more: It’s not a question of how much Abbas is willing to compromise, he cannot compromise. Not if he values his life. This is well understood by people on the inside. And so, all the talk is futile.
I cited Arab Israeli journalist Khaled Abu Toameh—who knows the PA from the inside—with regard to this recently (emphasis added):
“…both Palestinian presidents [Arafat and Abbas] have already shown that they are not authorized to offer Israel even a 1 percent concession in return for peace.”
Abu Toameh related how Arafat came back from failed Camp David negotiations and explained, “…the Jews wanted me to end the conflict after I get what I get and who am I, Yasser Arafat, to end the conflict… if I make such concessions, I will end up drinking tea up there with Anwar Sadat [assassinated].”
Said Abu Toameh: “I even doubted the words ‘concession’ and ‘compromise’ exist in our Arabic dictionary and if they do, then they’re normally associated with very negative connotations, such as retreat, capitulation, surrender, defeat…You look at this president, Mahmoud Abbas. He’s actually in the same situation, if not worse.”
All the wasted effort, all the well-intentioned but ultimately fruitless meetings. So many – certainly the American negotiators – are naïve about the situation, judging it with western eyes.
We will get nowhere until we truly declare Oslo dead and the PA worthless, and look for other avenues for making peace.