UNRWA mandate 'must be changed,' U.S. says

U.S. President Donald Trump ordered a review and partial suspension of aid to UNRWA in January of this year.

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August 6, 2018 02:10
1 minute read.
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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)

 
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WASHINGTON – Trump administration officials criticized the UN Relief and Works Agency on Sunday, characterizing the aid body as a fundamentally flawed, cashstrapped organization hampering Palestinian growth.

The mandate of the UN agency, which provides assistance to the descendants of refugees from 1940s Mandate Palestine, “has perpetuated and exacerbated the refugee crisis,” a senior administration official told The Jerusalem Post, “and must be changed so the Palestinian people can reach their full potential.”

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US President Donald Trump ordered a review and partial suspension of aid to UNRWA in January of this year, when several of his top officials privately questioned the purpose of the organization, according to e-mails obtained by Foreign Policy last week.
Gaza tensions rise following UN funding cut to Palestinian refugee program UNRWA, July 30, 2018 (Reuters)

One of those e-mails showed Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, calling UNRWA “corrupt,” “inefficient” and unhelpful in their pursuit of peace.

“The US policy regarding UNRWA has been under frequent evaluation and internal discussion. The administration will announce its policy on UNRWA in due course,” the administration official said. “UNRWA’s financial situation has been unsustainable for a long time, and for years we have voiced the need for UNRWA to seek out new voluntary funding streams, increase financial burden- sharing among donors, and find ways to reduce expenditures.”

Palestinian Authority officials claim Kushner and his team seek to delegitimize the narrative of Palestinian refugees, who wish to return to modern-day Israel after the founding of a separate Palestinian state.

The Israeli government, which has long criticized UNRWA, insists it will never recognize Palestinians’ “right of return.” They claim the negotiating position is in fact a strategy to create two Arab states – an Arab state of Israel and an Arab state of Palestine – by flooding the Jewish state with generations of Palestinians far removed from the initial wars of independence.

UNRWA has been a target of congressional Republicans for years and is currently the subject of two draft bills originating in the House and Senate.

The premise of both would be to take away funding from the agency, which relies on US assistance.

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