According to an Israeli TV news report, the Trump administration is preparing to formally reject the long-standing Palestinian demand of a “right to return” to lands lost since the 1948 war for Israel’s independence. The administration will also change the U.S. position on Palestinian refugees.
According to the Hadashot TV report Saturday, the US in early September will set out its policy on the issue. It will produce a report that says there are actually only some half-a-million Palestinians who should be legitimately considered refugees, and make plain that it rejects the UN designation under which the millions of descendants of the original refugees are also considered refugees. The definition is the basis for the activities of UNRWA, the UN’s Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees.
The US — which on Friday announced that it had decided to cut more than $200 million in aid to the Palestinians — and has also cut back its funding for UNRWA — will also ask Israel to “reconsider” the mandate that Israel gives to UNRWA to operate in the West Bank. The goal of such a change, the TV report said, would be to prevent Arab nations from legitimately channeling aid to UNRWA in the West Bank.
Created in 1949 in the wake of the 1948 War of Independence, UNRWA operates schools and provides health care and other social services to Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria.
Hadashot said the new US position represented a further endorsement of Israel’s positions, months after the administration recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocated the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The Palestinians have been playing the long con with the “right of return” issue, which was always more of a fantasy than reality. They conned the UN for years about the number of “refugees,” when in fact, the vast majority of Palestinians in refugee camps have no “right” to return to anything. Many were urged to leave by Arab leaders in 1948, others were abroad and never lived in Israel.
Tallying the number of individuals considered Palestinian refugees today is a matter of intense debate. UNRWA, classifies Palestinian refugees as those who left Israel in 1948; those who left the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967; those who were abroad but were subsequently not allowed to return to Israel; and all of their descendants. According to UNWRA, this totals five million Palestinian refugees. UNRWA’s statistics include those residing in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. (Note: UNRWA’s policy of including the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those who left in 1948 and 1967 into the refugee population for demographic and aid purposes is unique among refugee populations, and is not a done for any other refugee group.)
Israel believes the UNRWA statistics are exaggerated and further distinguishes “refugees” from “displaced persons” and from “expired permit Palestinians” who were abroad at the time the conflicts ensued and were not allowed to return.
This doesn’t lessen the misery of Palestinians in those refugee camps, but whose fault is that? Arab nations refuse to grant Palestinians in the camps citizenship, preferring to pen them up in rancid conditions and treat them as non-people. The UNRWA facilitates the misery and the UN and international community are accessories to the crimes as the Palestinian people are under the delusion that a “right of return” will be part of any settlement with Israel.
The administration’s change in policy will be a splash of cold water on Palestinian illusions and should cheer the Israelis.