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


Syria’s Downing of a Russian Plane Put Israel in the Crosshairs

Sept. 21 2018

On Monday, Israeli jets fired missiles at an Iranian munitions storehouse in the northwestern Syrian city of Latakia. Shortly thereafter, Syrian personnel shot down a Russian surveillance plane with surface-to-air missiles, in what seems to be a botched and highly incompetent response to the Israeli attack. Moscow first responded by blaming Jerusalem for the incident, but President Putin then offered more conciliatory statements. Yesterday, Russian diplomats again stated that Israel was at fault. Yoav Limor comments:

What was unusual [about the Israeli] strike was the location: Latakia [is] close to Russian forces, in an area where the IDF hasn’t been active for some time. The strike itself was routine; the IDF notified the Russian military about it in advance, the missiles were fired remotely, the Israeli F-16s returned to base unharmed, and as usual, Syrian antiaircraft missiles were fired indiscriminately in every direction, long after the strike itself was over. . . .

Theoretically, this is a matter between Russia and Syria. Russia supplied Syria with the SA-5 [missile] batteries that wound up shooting down its plane, and now it must demand explanations from Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. That won’t happen; Russia was quick to blame Israel for knocking over the first domino, and as usual, sent conflicting messages that make it hard to parse its future strategy. . . .

From now on, Russia will [almost certainly] demand a higher level of coordination with Israel and limits on the areas in which Israel can attack, and possibly a commitment to refrain from certain actions. Syria, Iran, and Hizballah will try to drag Russia into “handling” Israel and keeping it from continuing to carry out strikes in the region. Israel . . . will blame Iran, Hizballah, and Syria for the incident, and say they are responsible for the mess.

But Israel needs to take rapid action to minimize damage. It is in Israel’s strategic interest to keep up its offensive actions to the north, mainly in Syria. If that action is curtailed, Israel’s national security will be compromised. . . . No one in Israel, and certainly not in the IDF or the Israel Air Force, wants Russia—which until now hasn’t cared much about Israel’s actions—to turn hostile, and Israel needs to do everything to prevent that from happening. Even if that means limiting its actions for the time being. . . . Still, make no mistake: Russia is angry and has to explain its actions to its people. Israel will need to walk a thin line between protecting its own security interests and avoiding a very unwanted clash with Russia.

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More about: Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Russia, Syrian civil war