News from the Middle East Forum
In announcing on August 31, 2018, an immediate end to all U.S. government funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the Trump administration has adopted one of the Middle East Forum’s signature policy prescriptions.
The U.S. taxpayer contributed $364 million in 2017, about one-third of the total UNRWA budget, almost triple the European Union contribution and by far the most from any single UNRWA donor.
At the State Department’s request, the Forum on Aug. 8 provided it with a detailed plan to dismantle UNRWA – a refugee agency that perversely sees its mandate as creating ever-more refugees. Today’s announcement takes a first step toward that end.
The second step should be for the US government to divert funds to local partners on the ground via direct relationships with hospitals, clinics, schools, municipalities, micro-financing programs, vocational capacity building initiatives, infrastructure managers, social service providers, and others.
The third step will be to end U.S. recognition of the fake Palestine refugees. In 1950, UNRWA counted 625,000 Palestine refugees; today it counts 5.3 million of them. MEF estimates that actual Palestine refugees – those who fled in 1948-49, did not take on a nationality, and do not live in the West Bank or Gaza – number about 20,000. That means that over 99 percent of UNRWA-recognized Palestine refugees do not fit the definition of refugee according to the U.S. government. UNRWA’s unique definition nourishes Palestinian irredentism and terrorism, renders diplomacy futile, and creates regional instability. MEF advises treating the 99 percent as needy people deserving of assistance, not as refugees.
Key advantages of this three-step plan include: ending the creation of new Palestine refugees, limiting UNRWA’s anti-Israel propaganda, and encouraging the constructive development of a Palestinian polity, economy, culture, and society.
MEF efforts to change U.S. policy began in 2010, when it worked closely with then-Sen. Mark Kirk (Republican of Illinois) to require the State Department to issue a report detailing how many individuals currently considered Palestine refugees fit the U.S. government definition of a refugee, and how many are currently supported by U.S. aid. That led to passage of the “Kirk Amendment” in 2012.
MEF has also worked with Representatives Chris Stewart (Republican of Utah), Kay Granger (Republican of Texas), Chuck Fleishmann (Republican of Tennessee) and Ann Wagner (Republican of Missouri) toward ending Palestinian refugee proliferation; and is currently working with Congressman Doug Lamborn (Republican of Colorado) and Senator James Lankford (Republican of Oklahoma) on legislative initiatives addressing the topic in-depth.
The Middle East Forum promotes American interests and works to protect Western civilization from the threat of Islamism
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