Israeli Officials Hail Trump Move To Cut Aid To Palestinian Refugees

TOPSHOT - US President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the Florida State Fairgrounds Expo Hall in Tampa, Florida, on July 31, 2018. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

TEL AVIV – Israeli officials have hailed President Donald Trump’s reported plan to formally reject the Palestinian “right of return” for millions of Palestinians classified as refugees and their descendants to Israel, as well as his order to cut hundreds of millions of dollars in aid money to the UN agency for those refugees. 

Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin praised the Trump administration’s “justified decision,” saying it “finally speaks the truth to the Arab lie that has been marketed all over the world for decades.”

“The solutions for the challenges facing those currently living in various Arab countries can be found in those countries. There is no reason for them to dream of returning [here],” said Elkin. “The State of Israel was, is and will always be the national homeland of the Jewish people, on the grounds of 2,000 years of history, as well as its official status since the days of the Balfour Declaration.”

He added that the UN agency for Palestinians labeled as refugees, UNRWA, has “artificially perpetuated the Arab problem to use it as a tool to batter the State of Israel, and it should have long since passed from the world.”

Palestinian so-called 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.

Elkin said that the U.S.’s decision to suspend aid “proves that when Israel believes in its path, and when the Israeli public unites behind our national interests, ultimately the world concedes the truth and comes around to our position.”

“That is happening now with the [Palestinian] right of return, it happened with the decision to relocate the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, and it will happen in other areas if we show enough determination,” he stated.

Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis also praised the U.S. for “finally putting an end to the Arab lie.”

“International aid funds do not help the Arabs of Judea and Samaria, but rather the corrupt leadership there. It aids the families of terrorists,” he said. “Exposing the administration’s plan to revoke the demand for the right of return is an important and historic phase in exposing the lie that has been prevalent for decades.”

Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan stated, “The funds, which are undoubtedly going to fund the Hamas terror regime in Gaza instead of going toward rehabilitating the [Gaza] Strip, are used to produce rockets, dig terror tunnels and build up [Hamas’] terror forces that act against Israel and its citizens. The aid must be cut.”

Likud Knesset member Sharren Haskel, who chairs the Knesset’s Lobby for Reform With UNRWA, charged the agency with “raising generations of refugees and straying from its original role of resolving the refugee problem.”

However, the reports also prompted an Israeli defense official to say that Trump’s move “could set the area, which is already on the verge of a conflict, on fire.”

But that claim was dismissed by a senior diplomat who, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it was little more than fear-mongering typical of defense officials.

“The tendency of certain officials in the defense establishment to fear everything, and sometimes align themselves with pro-Arab organizations that act against Israel, is alarming,” the diplomatic official said. “The defense establishment’s job is not to replace the diplomatic echelon, but rather to ensure the safety of the citizens of the State of Israel using our own resources. They needn’t go looking for sub-contractors that engage in incessant anti-Israel propaganda.”

On Sunday, Education Minister Naftali Bennett praised the U.S. for the move.

“An American cancellation of the recognition of the fictitious ‘right’ of return and of the fictitious refugee-by-descent status would be a courageous and just step that uncovers layers of lies,” Bennett said in a statement.

Pierre Kraehenbuehl, the head of UNRWA, implied that the U.S. aid cuts were in order to punish the Palestinians for their reaction to 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 U.S. vision and engagement in Palestine,” Husam Zomlot said in a statement.

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