The United Nations was warned long ago that President Trump’s administration would be like none other before it. It was warned that it could either get on the same page with U.S. interests or risk losing the lion’s share of its international funding. It was warned that the days of the United States keeping UN agency’s afloat while they kowtow to brutal dictators and thwart U.S. interests at every turn were coming to an end. And this week, the administration proved that it was not kidding around. The State Department released a statement announcing that the U.S. would cut nearly $300 million in future funding for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees, and now UN officials are scrambling to make up the money elsewhere.
“Beyond the budget gap itself and failure to mobilize adequate and appropriate burden sharing, the fundamental business model and fiscal practices that have marked UNRWA for years – tied to UNRWA’s endlessly and exponentially expanding community of entitled beneficiaries – is simply unsustainable and has been in crisis mode for many years,” said State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert. “The United States will no longer commit further funding to this irredeemably flawed operation.”
Despite whatever good the agency may have done over the years, both Israel and Trump’s senior advisers say that UNRWA has played a significant role in preventing Middle East peace talks from reaching their full potential. As such, this move by the administration comes as no surprise; in early August, Foreign Policy magazine published internal emails from Jared Kushner and other top Trump officials calling on UNRWA to be closed down.
“It is important to have an honest and sincere effort to disrupt UNRWA,” Kushner wrote in January. “This [agency] perpetuates a status quo, is corrupt, inefficient and doesn’t help peace.”
There are other UN agencies who can help those Palestinians who can still legitimately lay claim to the term “refugee.” As it stands now, UNRWA is an agency that should have been shuttered, oh, about fifty years ago. By perpetually assigning refugee status to not only those Palestinians displaced by Israel’s War of Independence, but to every generation thereafter, the UNRWA has become a poster child for waste, incompetence, and political warfare against Israel. The existence of this agency makes it far less likely that Palestine will ever achieve, or even strive for, competent self-governance. In fact, it only enables the current governing groups – the Palestinian Authority and Hamas – to spend their time funding terror attacks instead of building a sustainable peace process with Israel.
As such, this move is long overdue.