My Word: UNRWA’s unsettling impact

UNRWA has done nothing to build a sustainable, peaceful Palestinian state.

A MAN STANDS next to a cart carrying a sack of flour distributed by UNRWA in the Khan Yunis refugee camp in the Gaza Strip in January, 2018. (photo credit: IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA / REUTERS)

When US President Donald Trump last week tweeted about cutting aid to Pakistan and the Palestinians, the thought process was not as erratic as his style might suggest. I’m not a fan of Trump’s diplomacy-by-Twitter policy, but I drew a line between the dots: a redline.

To understand the absurdity that is UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) exchange the name India for Israel and Pakistan for the Palestinians.

The disputes in both regions began in similar circumstances following the end of British rule, in 1947 in the case of India and Pakistan, and 1948 for Israel. (At the time, not even the Arab countries that immediately attacked the nascent Jewish state referred to the Arab residents as “Palestinians.”)

An estimated 15 million people were uprooted in Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan. Between one million and two million were killed. It was a tragedy of epic proportions.

Seventy years on, India and Pakistan have an uneasy relationship that occasionally flares into conflict. There are still disputed areas, such as Kashmir, but there is not a “refugee problem.”

That’s because the Hindus and Sikhs who fled Pakistan for India and the Muslims who escaped in the other direction – whether from fear or violent coercion – have not spent the past seven decades constantly being sold the illusion that they will move back and destroy their enemies.

Similarly, the approximately 850,000 Jews who left/fled Arab countries do not consider themselves “refugees” in Israel. There may be ongoing arguments about the way the Sephardim were treated by the Ashkenazi elites, but it is sibling rivalry. A family is not always perfect but nonetheless it remains a family.

Strangely, there are not only still “Palestinian refugees” but the numbers have ballooned from some 700,000 in 1948 to a reported five million today. Part of the blame can be pinned on the Arab countries such as Lebanon and Syria that denied the refugees full rights, cynically using them as a tool against Israel. The Palestinian Authority, too, is guilty of a dirty double game – on the one hand claiming to represent the State of Palestine (already recognized by more than 135 countries) while on the other protesting their ongoing condition of being refugees.

Above all, the UN has contributed to the problem. When it uniquely granted the Palestinians “perpetual refugee status,” a status that is passed down through the generations, it ensured the perpetuation of their plight (and Israel’s). UNRWA is not the solution to the Palestinian refugee problem, it is the reason the problem still exists.

UNRWA was founded in 1949, ostensibly to help the Palestinians until the refugee problem would be solved. In the intervening decades it has become a big business, with a multimillion-dollar budget (some $300 million per annum courtesy of the US) and some 30,000 employees. It has no motivation to end the crisis.

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ACTION ALERT – HR 4718 – The Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of the State of Israel Act

115th CONGRESS – 1st Session

H. R. 4718

To recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to transfer to Jerusalem the United States Embassy located in Tel Aviv.

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US won’t strike ISIS resurgent in Assad-ruled areas, pushes Russia to curb pro-Iranian Hizballah push near Israel

While openly blaming Syria (and Russia) for giving ISIS free rein, US quietly rebukes Moscow for not reining in the pro-Iranian push towards Israeli border.

“The Syrian regime has failed to prevent the resurgence of ISIS on their own soil,” said British Maj. Gen. Gedney, deputy commander of Strategy and Support for the US-backed coalition to defeat the Islamic State terror group. And even in areas where Syrian forces have intensified their efforts against ISIS, progress has been, at best, fleeting, he said. “We’ve got no intention to operate in areas that are currently held by the [Assad] regime.”


DEBKAfile places the coalition general’s comments against the backdrop of the quiet deal struck earlier this month between Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. That conversation charted a division of labor in the Syrian arena to avoid clashes between their forces. It was understood that Russia would reciprocate for US consent to abstain from operating west of the Euphrates (in Assad-ruled domains) by curbing Turkish, Iranian and Hizballah operations, especially in border regions.

Gedney’s comments, while only directly referring to ISIS, also coincided Wednesday with the fall of the Beit Jinn enclave in one of those operations.

He went on to say that a “limited numbers of ISIS militants… seem to be moving with impunity through regime-held territory,” and pointed to a new concentration outside the US al-Tanf post in the Syrian-Jordanian-Iraqi border triangle. “We’ve clearly seen a lot of operations by pro-regime forces, Russian-backed Syrian forces over to the east of the [Euphrates] river,” Gedney said. “We’ve questioned the effectiveness of some of those operations.” Syria and Russia must do more to wipe out ISIS in areas still controlled by the regime, US officials insist.

The US-led coalition is clearly pressing for a decision as to who will assume responsibility for dealing with this rising ISIS threat. DEBKAfile’s sources note that, alongside this question, is the one the US is implicitly addressing to the Russians regarding another terrorist threat: This one is posed by the fall of Beit Jinn opposite an IDF outpost in the foothills of Mount Hermon to a combined Syrian-Hizballah-militia force under the command of Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers. At the moment, this combined force stands 11km from the Israeli border and appears to be poised to continue its victorious momentum for an assault on the Quneitra pocket on the doorstep of Israeli Golan, unless it is stopped.

Israel has quietly warned the Trump administration that if this combined hostile force moves any closer, the IDF will have no option but to step in to push it back. Clearly, the understandings reached between presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin were not holding up in this sector….

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Report: Saudi Prince promises Israel billions of dollars to defeat Hezbollah

The Saudi Arabian monarch will announce his son as successor, who plans to count on IDF backing to defeat Iran and its proxy Hezbollah and has already promised Israel billions of dollars if they agree, a new report indicates.

King Salman of Saudi Arabia plans to step down and announce his son as his successor next week, a source close to the country’s royal family told in an exclusive interview.

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