Defunding the Palestinian “Refugees”

Recently, the Trump Administration announced it was cutting in half the United States’s contribution to Palestinian refugees.

According to the Wall Street Journal:

The move follows deliberations among national security aides to Mr. Trump, who complained in a Jan. 2 Twitter message that the U.S. pays Palestinians hundreds of millions of dollars a year but receives “no appreciation or respect in return.”

The State Department said Tuesday that the U.S. wants to see a “fundamental re-examination of UNRWA, both in the way it operates and the way it is funded.”

Heather Nauert, a State Department spokeswoman, said the Trump administration would like to see changes to how UNRWA operates and that officials would take a look at how the agency’s money is being spent and will assess how funds can best meet needs.

An official said the program continues to operate as a temporary relief program nearly 70 years after it was originally founded, but has ballooned to an agency supporting about 5 million refugees, up from about 750,000 in 1968.

Some U.S. officials advocated eliminating the U.S. contribution altogether, but in the end, administration officials agreed to compromise by cutting the initial U.S. contribution by about half.

I am very supportive of this action on a variety of different levels.  To my mind, this is another area where President Trump has taken a very legitimate action that other Republican Presidents, including Presidents Reagan, George W. Bush, and George Herbert Walker Bush did not.

One issue that should be addressed is the whole concept of a Palestinian refugee.  Many people are not aware that the entire issue of Palestinian refugees is another example of a double standard.  The United Nations does not consider refugee status to be hereditary.  As a result, under the ordinary UN standard, a large group cannot continue to be refugees generation after generation.

But as with so much else, the Israelis are held to a different standard.  As I stated in a previous post, “while ‘the UN does not consider refugee status to be hereditary for any other group’ it does consider it for the descendants of Palestinian refugees prior to 1949. Thus, the ‘vast majority of registered Palestinian refugees have not been displaced,’ but have inherited their refugee status, even though such inheritance is not allowed for other refugee groups. (The one exception is that of Sahrawi refugees, who are also treated under the same standard as Israel.)”

The Trump Administration should insist on an end to this double standard, as part of its insistence of a fundamental re-examination of UNRWA.

Another problem with paying the Palestinians large amounts is that it encourages dysfunction.  When the West Bank was administered by Israel, before the Intifadas, it experienced significant economic growth.  But the return of Yasir Arafat led to rebellion and dysfunction.  The large payments made to the Palestinians subsidizes those infirmities.

Once again, Donald Trump has shown himself willing to pursue policies that other Republican Presidents might have promoted, but did not.