Foreign Policy: Kusher Seeks to do Away With UNRWA

Washington, MINA – Jared Kushner, US president Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, has quietly been trying to shut down UNRWA, which has provided food and essential services for millions of Palestinian refugees for decades, according to internal emails obtained by Foreign Policy.

Foreign policy said, according to both American and Palestinian officials, that Kushner’s “initiative is part of a broader push by the Trump administration and its allies in Congress to strip these Palestinians of their refugee status in the region and take their issue off the table in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.”

“By trying to unwind UNRWA, the Trump administration appears ready to reset the terms of the Palestinian refugee issue in Israel’s favor—as it did on another key issue in December, when Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital,” the magazine added on its website,  Palestinian Information Center (PIC) reported.

Kushner, whom Trump has delegated to reach a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has been reluctant to speak publicly about any aspect of his Middle East diplomacy.

But his position on the refugee issue and his animus toward UNRWA are evident in internal emails written by Kushner and others earlier this year.

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“It is important to have an honest and sincere effort to disrupt UNRWA,” Kushner wrote about the agency in one of those emails, dated January 11 and addressed to several other senior officials, including Trump’s Middle East peace envoy, Jason Greenblatt.

“This [agency] perpetuates a status quo, is corrupt, inefficient and doesn’t help peace,” he wrote.

In the same January email, Kushner wrote: “Our goal can’t be to keep things stable and as they are. … Sometimes you have to strategically risk breaking things in order to get there.”

Kushner raised the refugee issue with officials in Jordan during a visit to the region in June, along with special representative for international negotiations Jason Greenblatt.

According to Palestinian officials, he pressured the Jordanian leadership to strip its more than 2,000,000 registered Palestinians of their refugee status so that UNRWA would no longer need to operate there.

“[Kushner said] the resettlement has to take place in the host countries and these governments can do the job that UNRWA was doing,” according to Hanan Ashrawi, a member of Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).


She said the Trump administration wanted rich Arab Gulf states to cover the costs Jordan might incur in the process.

“They want to take a really irresponsible, dangerous decision and the whole region will suffer,” Ashrawi said.

Saeb Erekat, the Palestinians’ chief negotiator, told reporters in June that Kushner’s delegation had said it was ready to stop funding UNRWA altogether and instead channel the money, $300 million annually, to Jordan and other countries that host Palestinian refugees.

“All this is actually aimed at liquidating the issue of the Palestinian refugees,” he said.

The White House declined to comment on the information published by Foreign Policy, which quoted a senior executive branch official as saying, on condition of anonymity, that US policy regarding the UN’s Palestinian refugee program “has been under frequent evaluation and internal discussion. The administration will announce its policy in due course.”

Jordanian officials in New York and Washington did not respond to the magazine’s queries about Kushner’s positions in this regard.


Kushner and Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, both proposed ending funding for the UNRWA back in January. But the State Department, the Pentagon, and the US intelligence community all opposed the idea, fearing in part that it could fuel violence in the region.

The following week, the State Department announced that that US would cut the first $125 million installment of its annual payment to UNRWA by more than half, to $60 million.

“UNRWA has been threatening us for six months that if they don’t get a check they will close schools. Nothing has happened,” Kushner wrote in the same email.

Foreign Policy said there was another email sent by Victoria Coates, a senior advisor to Greenblatt, to the White House’s national security staff indicating that the White House was mulling a way to eliminate UNRWA.

“UNRWA should come up with a plan to unwind itself and become part of the UNHCR [UN High Commissioner for Refugees] by the time its charter comes up again in 2019,” Coates wrote.(R/R04/P2)


Mi’raj News Agency (MINA) 

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