A Plan for Shutting Down the UN’s Counterproductive Agency for Palestinian Refugees

Aug. 16 2018

Recently, the presidential adviser Jared Kushner has been working to reform, cut funding for, and possibly dismantle the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). This agency, founded in 1950, works independently of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and, unlike that organization, sees its goal as keeping its wardens in a state of permanent refugeehood, rather than arranging for them to find citizenship and employment where they reside. Thus, of the five million people who receive its support, only some 30,000 are refugees by the standard definition; the rest are descendants of refugees. UNRWA also engages in Islamist indoctrination in many of its schools and has collaborated with Hamas in Gaza. Dave Harden writes:

UNRWA primarily provides health, education, and social services; make no mistake, this assistance is life-saving to the most vulnerable. But after 70 years, the structure and incentives have ossified to create welfare dependency. Most Palestinians would prefer the dignity of a state, a job, and the potential of a real future than food-basket deliveries, generation after generation. While one can acknowledge its good work in tough places, UNRWA subsidizes dysfunctionality and an unsustainable status quo in most of the Levant. Here are three suggestions. . . .

First, set a ten-year exit strategy. . . . With an [immediate] UNRWA withdrawal from the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority or, if it collapses, the Israeli government will have to finance health and education for potentially a million people. A ten-year exit requires the parties to begin a purposeful, planned wind-down and, in so doing, will place inevitably severe stress on the status quo.

Second, begin UNRWA’s exit plan in Jordan. . . . Most of the two million Palestinian refugees in Jordan are [already] politically, economically, and socially integrated into the Hashemite kingdom. . . . Third, shift refugee operations in Syria and Lebanon from UNRWA to the UNHCR, which has the mandate to protect refugees and assist in their voluntary repatriation, local integration, or resettlement to a third country. . . .

Kushner is right to demand a fundamental re-ordering of UNRWA. The UN agency serves as a welfare and humanitarian-relief provider which after 70 years subsidizes despair and continued conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis.

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More about: Israel & Zionism, Jared Kushner, Palestinian refugees, U.S. Foreign policy, UNRWA


The Reasons for Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Staying Power

Nov. 20 2018

This week, Benjamin Netanyahu seems to have narrowly avoided the collapse of his governing coalition despite the fact that one party, Yisrael Beiteinu, withdrew and another, the Jewish Home, threatened to follow suit. Moreover, he kept the latter from defecting without conceding its leader’s demand to be appointed minister of defense. Even if the government were to collapse, resulting in early elections, Netanyahu would almost certainly win, writes Elliot Jager:

[Netanyahu’s] detractors think him Machiavellian, duplicitous, and smug—willing to do anything to stay in power. His supporters would not automatically disagree. Over 60 percent of Israelis tell pollsters that they will be voting for a party other than Likud—some supposing their favored party will join a Netanyahu-led coalition while others hoping against the odds that Likud can be ousted.

Opponents would [also] like to think the prime minister’s core voters are by definition illiberal, hawkish, and religiously inclined. However, the 30 percent of voters who plan to vote Likud reflect a broad segment of the population. . . .

Journalists who have observed Netanyahu over the years admire his fitness for office even if they disagree with his actions. A strategic thinker, Netanyahu’s scope of knowledge is both broad and deep. He is a voracious reader and a quick study. . . . Foreign leaders may not like what he says but cannot deny that he speaks with panache and authority. . . .

The prime minister or those around him are under multiple police investigations for possible fraud and moral turpitude. Under Israel’s system, the police investigate and can recommend that the attorney general issue an indictment. . . . Separately, Mrs. Netanyahu is in court for allegedly using public monies to pay for restaurant meals. . . . The veteran Jerusalem Post political reporter Gil Hoffman maintains that Israelis do not mind if Netanyahu appears a tad corrupt because they admire a politician who is nobody’s fool. Better to have a political figure who cannot be taken advantage of than one who is incorruptible but naïve.

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel & Zionism, Israeli politics