TEL AVIV – The Trump Administration is set to formally reject the Palestinian demand for a “right of return” for millions of so-called refugees and their descendants to Israel, an Israeli TV report said Saturday night.
In the coming days, Washington will announce a policy that “from its point of view, essentially cancels the ‘right of return,’” the report said.
Palestinian “refugees” are the only “refugees” in the world that pass that status on to their descendants in perpetuity. One of the core issues in the conflict is the Palestinian demand that those so-called refugees and their descendants — who now number around 5 million — be allowed to return to Israel. Israel has categorically rejected this demand, deeming it a bid to destroy the Jewish state by demographics.
According to Channel 2, the U.S. is set to release a report in early September claiming that there are only some half-a-million Palestinians who can legitimately be defined as refugees, contravening the existing UN designation.
On Friday, the U.S. announced that it was cutting more than $200 million in aid to the Palestinians.
The announcement came on the heels of a review examining U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority.
According to the official, Washington seeks “to ensure these funds are spent in accordance with US national interests and provide value to the US taxpayer.”
“As a result of that review,” the official continued, “at the direction of the president, we will redirect more than $200 million in [fiscal year 2017] economic support funds originally planned for programs in the West Bank and Gaza. Those funds will now address high-priority projects elsewhere.”
The Trump administration has already cut aid to the United Nations agency for Palestinian “refugees,” UNRWA.
In January, Trump slammed the PA over its refusal to deal with the U.S., saying his administration should not continue to give “massive payments” to the Palestinians when they are “no longer willing to talk peace.”
U.S. officials refused to comment, saying only “the administration will announce its policy on UNRWA at the appropriate time,” Saturday’s TV report said.
Earlier this month, Foreign Policy magazine published emails by President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner and other members of the peace team that slammed the agency and called for it to be shuttered.
In one email, Kushner called UNRWA “corrupt” and “unhelpful.”
“It is important to have an honest and sincere effort to disrupt UNRWA,” Kushner wrote in an email dated January 11, a few days before the U.S. froze $65 million in funding for UNRWA. “This [agency] perpetuates a status quo, is corrupt, inefficient and doesn’t help peace.”
UNRWA has also come under fire on many occasions for spreading anti-Semitic hate in its schools and employing members of terror organizations and supporters of terror. In February, UN Watch released an 130-page report exposing 40 UNRWA school employees in Gaza and elsewhere who engaged in incitement to terror against Israelis and expressed “anti-Semitism, including by posting Holocaust-denying videos and pictures celebrating Hitler.”
That month the agency also announced the suspension of an UNRWA employee suspected of having been elected a Hamas leader.
The UN itself released a report in 2015 that found Palestinian terror groups used three empty UNRWA schools in Gaza as a weapons cache. Moreover, it said that in at least two cases terrorists “probably” fired rockets at Israel from the schools during the 50-day summer conflict in 2014 between Israel and Hamas.
On Friday, Pierre Kraehenbuehl, the head of UNRWA, implied that the U.S. aid cuts were in order to punish the Palestinians over their reaction of the U.S.’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“One cannot simply wish 5 million people away,” Kraehenbuehl said.
PLO Executive Committee member Dr. Hanan Ashrawi said the Trump administration “has already demonstrated meanness of spirit in its collusion with the Israeli occupation and its theft of land and resources; now it is exercising economic meanness by punishing the Palestinian victims of this occupation.”
The PLO’s envoy to Washington responded to the latest cut by saying that the Trump administration was “weaponizing” humanitarian aid.
“This administration is dismantling decades of US vision and engagement in Palestine,” Husam Zomlot said in a statement.
“After Jerusalem and UNRWA, this is another confirmation of abandoning the two-state solution and fully embracing (Israeli prime minster Benjamin) Netanyahu’s anti-peace agenda,” he added in reference to Trump’s formal recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the subsequent transfer of the U.S. embassy there.
“Weaponizing humanitarian and developmental aid as political blackmail does not work,” Zomlot said.
“Only a recommitment from this administration,” he added, “to the long held US policy of achieving peace through the two state solution on the 1967 borders with east Jerusalem the capital of the state of Palestine and respecting international resolutions and law will provide a way forward.”