How the U.S. Missed an Opportunity to Reform the Corrupt UN Organization That Keeps the Israel-Palestinian Conflict Alive

In 2018, the U.S. abruptly cut its funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), the organization created in 1950 to tend to the needs of Arab refugees from the Israeli War of Independence. The reasons to deny financial support to UNRWA are numerous: unlike the UN itself and other international bodies, it counts descendants of refugees as refugees themselves, along with those who have citizenship in other countries; its schools teach students anti-Semitic and jihadist propaganda; and in Gaza its employees cooperate with terrorists and its schools sometimes serve as weapons depots. Worst of all, it functions to prolong, rather than solve, the Palestinian refugee problem.

Since coming to office, the Biden administration has restored funding, but has only received some vague assurances from UNRWA that it will rectify some of its most egregious behavior. James G. Lindsay writes:

In return for renewing its generous funding, the United States could have, inter alia, demanded that UNRWA

  • Check its staff, beneficiaries, and contractors against the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control list—which at least would have reduced the likelihood of the agency using U.S. funds to support persons under sanctions;
  • Take immediate action with regard to the decades-long saga of improper content in UNRWA textbooks—e.g., by paying for separate print runs of local textbooks, modified to be suitable for use by UNRWA students;
  • Begin the process of identifying those persons on UNRWA’s rolls who actually meet the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) definition of a refugee;
  • Move from a status- to a needs-based provision of services to refugees.

The 2021 framework agreement [with the U.S.] may carry minor benefits by highlighting a few embarrassing problems raised publicly by UNRWA critics (e.g., staff misconduct, textbook concerns), but the agreement mostly focuses on process-related items, such as reporting modalities, and on aspirational statements. More effective would have been to use UNRWA’s tenuous financial position to compel specific, tangible, and constructive actions such as those just outlined.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Joe Biden, Palestinian refugees, UNRWA

To Save Gaza, the U.S. Needs a Strategy to Restrain Iran

Since the outbreak of war on October 7, America has given Israel much support, and also much advice. Seth Cropsey argues that some of that advice hasn’t been especially good:

American demands for “restraint” and a “lighter footprint” provide significant elements of Hamas’s command structure, including Yahya Sinwar, the architect of 10/7, a far greater chance of surviving and preserving the organization’s capabilities. Its threat will persist to some extent in any case, since it has significant assets in Lebanon and is poised to enter into a full-fledged partnership with Hizballah that would give it access to Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps for recruitment and to Iranian-supported ratlines into Jordan and Syria.

Turning to the aftermath of the war, Cropsey observes that it will take a different kind of involvement for the U.S. to get the outcomes it desires, namely an alternative to Israeli and to Hamas rule in Gaza that comes with buy-in from its Arab allies:

The only way that Gaza can be governed in a sustainable and stable manner is through the participation of Arab states, and in particular the Gulf Arabs, and the only power that can deliver their participation is the United States. A grand bargain is impossible unless the U.S. exerts enough leverage to induce one.

Militarily speaking, the U.S. has shown no desire seriously to curb Iranian power. It has persistently signaled a desire to avoid escalation. . . . The Gulf Arabs understand this. They have no desire to engage in serious strategic dialogue with Washington and Jerusalem over Iran strategy, since Washington does not have an Iran strategy.

Gaza’s fate is a small part of a much broader strategic struggle. Unless this is recognized, any diplomatic master plan will degenerate into a diplomatic parlor game.

Read more at National Review

More about: Gaza War 2023, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy