2018-08-30

UNRWA again in the Trump Cross hair

By: Daoud Kuttab

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency known by its acronym as UNRWA is again in the cross hairs of the Trump administration. Following its massive and unilateral cut in funding to UNRWA, the US administration is now over reaching by intervening in the mandate of the agency.
 
The UN General Assembly is the only party that has a right to intervene in the mandate of UNRWA, which was established by Resolution 302 (IV) of 8 December 1949 “to carry out direct relief and works programmes for Palestine refugees”.
 
The agency began operations on 1 May 1950. In the absence of a solution to the Palestine refugee problem, the General Assembly has repeatedly renewed UNRWA’s mandate, most recently extending it until 30 June 2020.
 
The Trump team led by the president’s son in law Jared Kushner is working overtime to fulfil the right wing agenda of the state of Israel. A look at the biographies of the team working on the Middle East conflict one is bound to see that the entire team is totally in the Zionist camp. Between Jewish and Christian Zionists the team is not only carrying out the Israeli policy, but appears to be over reaching in its efforts to speedily obliterate the Palestinian national cause of which Jerusalem and the right of return are an integral part thereof.
 
The latest US over reach and interference in the mandate of UNRWA is focused on the attempts to dictate to the UN agency who qualifies as a refugee. The US wants to reduce the number of Palestinian refugees from 5 million to less than five hundred thousand. In the eyes of the Trump Zionist team only men and women who became refugees in 1948 qualify, but not their children or grandchildren.
 
On its official website UNRWA states that its services are available to all those living in its area of operations who meet this definition, who are registered with the agency. “The descendants of Palestine refugee males, including adopted children, are also eligible for registration.” When the agency began operations in 1950, it was responding to the needs of about 750,000 Palestine refugees. Today, some 5 million Palestine refugees are eligible for UNRWA services.
 
US attempts to unilaterally change the status of Palestinian refugees will do little to reduce the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which is suffering in large part due to the Israel siege on the populated strip. Attempting to change the status of Palestinian refugees will do little to change the situation of 2 million registered refugees in Jordan, home to the largest group of refugees in countries neighbouring to Palestine.
 
The change in who is recognised as a Palestinian refugees will do little to change the Palestinian insistence on the right of return as enshrined in UN Resolution 194. While Palestinians have consistently stressed the need for Israel to recognise its historic and ethnical role in creating the Palestinian refugees crisis, there has been reports that Palestinian negotiators were willing to negotiate how this right is actually implemented. But accepting to negotiate, for example how many refugees will be allowed to return to Israel within a comprehensive agreement that includes an independent Palestinian state does not mean that a super power like the US can dictate beforehand who is and who is not a refugee, and whether the Palestinian refugees have or do not have the right to return.
 
If the US is genuinely interested in peace, a more productive move by Washington would be to initiate a process that will include revisiting the permanent status issues that were left unsolved by the Memorandum of Understanding (MoW) signed in the White House Lawn in 1993. The MoU which is also referred to as the Oslo Accords called for the resolution of borders, Jerusalem, settlements, refugees and security arrangements by 1999. 
 
Today nineteen years later, the United States a sponsor of those accords cannot simply ignore this agreement and the many UN resolutions and simply take sides and force down Palestinian throats the Israeli positions on issues of disagreement like Jerusalem and refugees.

* A Palestinian columnist based in Amman, Jordan. - dkuttab@ammannet.net