Jan 24,2018 – JORDAN TIMES –
Donald Trump is holding Palestinian refugees hostage because their leaders have not been subservient and respectful after he awarded Israel recognition of Jerusalem as its capital and took the issue of Jerusalem “off the table” when and if negotiations resumed. Trump was infuriated when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has protested his shift from 70 years of US and international policy on Jerusalem, cut off contacts with his administration, and declared it unfit to broker a peace deal with Israel.
Trump retaliated in twin tweets, saying, “We pay the Palestinians HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect. They don’t even want to negotiate a long overdue… peace treaty with Israel.” He asked, “… with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?”
Unless there is a change of policy, the US contribution to UNRWA, the UN agency caring for 5.2 million Palestinian refugees, will not amount to “HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS” but could rest at $60 million.
Last weekend UNRWA’s Commissioner General Pierre Krahenbuhl revealed the agency has been “informed that the contribution to our core budget would be this year $60 million when the United States contributed in total to UNRWA last year $360 million”. Therefore, UNRWA faces a shortfall of $300 million — the “HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS” Trump complained about.
UNRWA had been expecting a first instalment in the annual US contribution of $360 million amounting to $125 million, $80 million in budgetary support and $45 million for the emergency appeal for food aid to which the administration had committed itself last December. Since UNRWA can not cut food aid, refugees hit hardest by the US contribution cut will be 525,000 children in the agency’s 700 schools and those needing treatment in UNRWA’s primary health care facilities. Although he pledged to keep open schools and clinics through this year and afterwards, Krahenbuhl warned, “The reduced contribution… impacts regional security at a time when the Middle East faces multiple risks and threats, notably that of… radicalisation.”
The shift in US policy on UNRWA was unexpected as the agency was in the process of ordering foodstuffs for 2018. UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness told this correspondent, “We regularly ask the US to make financial commitments at the end of each year that enable us to initiate the procurement process for essential relief and humanitarian assistance, including food, which requires advance purchasing agreements with suppliers. Upon receipt of the pledge, we initiated that procurement process at the end of 2017 for the distribution of food and assistance to the most vulnerable refugees in Gaza and the West Bank. We trust the US will honour its pledge. We are also mobilising all donors on this urgent matter.” Krahenbuhl has flown to Japan on the first leg of his mission to raise $500 million.
Among the refugees registered with UNRWA there are 2.2 million in Jordan, 450,000 in Lebanon, and 527,000 in Syria.
The problem is that Trump, personally, and his administration are totally subservient to Israel and its US domestic allies, including political campaign donors. For months now Trump has been hailing his “peace plan” for Palestinians and Israelis as the “deal of the century”. Trump’s seeks to get the Palestinian leadership to negotiate on his unacceptable deal by either starving Palestinian refugees into submission or depriving their children of their futures by denying them education. UNRWA is already laying off teachers in its areas of operations.
This plan has been drawn up by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and adviser Jason Greenblatt who are both deeply committed to Israel and its colonisation enterprise. The “plan” provides for a “Palestinian state” without full control over its territory, land, resources, and borders. “Fake Palestine” would have neither independence nor sovereignty. The Israeli military occupation would continue to prevail and Israel would increase the territory it holds from the current 62 per cent of the West Bank and all of East Jerusalem. This state would consist of Palestinian West Bank urban enclaves surrounded by Israeli colonised territory and Gaza. The “fake capital” would be Abu Dis, a West Bank town separated from East Jerusalem by Israel’s apartheid wall. Gaza would be linked to the West Bank by a corridor under Israeli sovereignty. Gaza would continue to be controlled by Israel by land, sea and air. Palestinians would have access to Israel’s airport at Tel Aviv and an Israeli port but would not have their own external travel and trade facilities. The Israeli military would continue to deploy in the Jordan Valley along the border with Jordan. Israeli colonies in the valley would remain.
Future negotiations would be dominated by Kushner and his partner, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, both of whom want to see UNRWA gone and Palestinians it serves merged into the millions of refugees cared for by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Palestinian refugees living outside their homeland would be absorbed by host countries and Palestine wiped off the world map.
Wiping Palestine off the map is not so easy. The country’s name appeared in Egyptian hieroglyphs since 1150BC. The first Greek reference to Palestine came in 450 BC when the historian Herodotus described a “district of Syria called Palaistine” which included the country’s coastal mountain range and the Jordan Valley. In the first century AD, the Romans adopted the name “Palestina” and, as “Palestine”, the name continues to stick today.
Furthermore, Palestinians are recognised globally as a unique national grouping despite the conquest of Palestine by Israel, its occupation, and dispersal of half of its native inhabitants. Under General Assembly resolution 194 of December 1948, the 750,000 Palestinians driven from their homes, villages and homeland during Israel’s war of establishment were meant to return home and receive compensation for losses. Today there are around 13 million Palestinians: 6.1 million in Israel and the occupied territories, and the rest in the diaspora. They have no intention of being fobbed off with a “fake state” or of disappearing.