President Trump appears determined to defund the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) should the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) refuse to resume negotiations with Israel.
Such negotiations – suspended since April 2014 – won’t re-commence until Trump’s eagerly-awaited peace plan – his “ultimate deal” - sees the light of day. Until then current UNRWA funding will probably continue.
Trump will have been singularly unimpressed with PLO Executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi describing America’s threat to defund UNRWA as “blackmail”.
US Ambassador to the United Nations – Nikki Haley – explained America’s future intentions regarding UNRWA:
“The President has basically said he doesn’t want to give any additional funding, or stop funding, until the Palestinians agree to come back to the negotiation table. We still very much want to have a peace process. Nothing changes with that. The Palestinians now have to show they want to come to the table.
As of now, they’re not coming to the table, but they ask for aid. We’re not giving the aid. We’re going to make sure that they come to the table.”America has long borne the lion’s share in funding UNRWA’s refugee program.
Contributions to UNWRA are purely voluntary. US$1243 million was donated to UNWRA in 2016 by:
1. America – US$368 million
2. The European Union – US$160 million
3. Saudi Arabia – US$148 million
4. The rest of the world – US$567 millionChina donated US$300000, Indonesia US$5000 – whilst only 9 of the 22 members of the Arab League donated to UNWRA and their contributions (apart from Saudi Arabia) totalled US$31 million.
1. those persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period from 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948 and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israel War. (“Qualifying Refugees”)
2. the descendants of male Qualifying Refugees, as well as their legally adopted children.Palestine refugees constitute the only group of refugees in the world whose descendants can claim refugee status long after the death of their refugee ancestors. Their numbers have increased from 750,000 in 1950 to 5 million in 2017.
UNRWA could reduce this ever-burgeoning number of refugees by closing many refugee camps in the West Bank like Dheisheh – which UNRWA states:
“was established in 1949 and is located along the main street in Bethlehem. The camp was built to serve 3,000 refugees. Today, the number of residents in Dheisheh has reached roughly 15,000.”UNRWA acknowledges that Dheisheh has been “under full Palestinian control (Area A)” since the 1995 Oslo Accords.
How can Dheisheh’s residents then continue to be classified as “refugees” when they are being governed by the PLO – the "sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people" – along with 200,000 other Palestinian Arabs living side by side with them as their next door neighbours?
Shouldn’t Dheisheh’s four schools, one health centre, Shams Health Centre for Non-Communicable Diseases and the Environmental health office be open to all Bethlehem residents – and the 15000 Dheisheh residents taken off the UNRWA register and absorbed into the Palestinian Arab population of Bethlehem?
Political – rather than humanitarian – concerns dominate UNRWA’s agenda preventing the closure of Dheisheh and other similar humanitarian eye-sores in the West Bank.
No wonder most countries contribute precious little to UNRWA. America seems set to emulate their example – especially if Israel/PLO negotiations aren’t resumed.