This week we discuss defunding UNRWA with James Lindsey and holding Palestinian leadership accountable with E.J. Kimball.

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Defunding the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA)
An interview with James G. Lindsay – Defining Palestinian Refugees

James G. Lindsay is a visiting fellow at The Washington Institute, focusing on Palestinian refugee issues and UN humanitarian assistance. From 2000-2007, he served the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) as a legal advisor and general counsel, and oversaw all of its legal activities. Before his UNRWA service, Lindsay spent 20 years as an attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Criminal Division.
Lindsay was one of the few Americans among UNRWA’s 30,000 employees whose offices were moved from Gaza to East Jerusalem in response to the increasingly dangerous environment created by the 2005 Palestinian intifada. Lindsay’s analysis of the U.S. government’s legal definition of a refugee (i.e., a stateless person) is consistent with the UN convention relating to the status of refugees formulated in 1951, and agreed to largely by global consensus. 

Notwithstanding this consensus, UNRWA still considers the two million Palestinians who have been granted Jordanian citizenship to be refugees. Although the West Bank’s and Gaza’s 2.1 million refugees (according to UNWRA’s tally) are technically not citizens because there is no Palestinian state, they still have the same rights and obligations attached to a nationality since many U.N. members recognize the sovereignty of the Palestinian areas. In addition, UNRWA categorizes refugees generationally, thereby inflating the number of refugees to 5.3 million.

If the U.S. government decided to defund UNRWA, funds would be redirected to the Palestinian Authority (PA).  For those who don’t receive PA services, there are multiple alternative aid programs to fill the gap. Hundreds of private institutions are run by Palestinians in healthcare and education to aid their fellow Palestinians. While it is unknown if the American government will require any refugee aid to transition to either development or humanitarian aid to Palestinians in need, UNRWA’s definition of a refugee is being challenged in the interim.

The withholding of U.S. monies to UNRWA is a consequence of the failure of the Trump administration’s insistence on UNWRA’s reform. It remains to be seen if UNRWA will respond to the U.S. government’s demands in the months ahead.

Defending the Israel Victory Strategy
An interview with EJ Kimball – Holding the Palestinian Leadership Accountable

EJ Kimball is a foreign policy and national security consultant with over 10 years' experience working in Washington, D.C. He most recently served as executive director of the Israel Allies Foundation. Kimball previously served as foreign policy counsel to Rep. Sue Myrick (NC), staff director of the Congressional Anti-Terrorism Caucus, and director of government relations for Jorge Scientific Corporation. He earned his J.D. from Western New England College and a master’s degree from American University’s School of International Service. He currently serves as Director of the Israel Victory Project, itself a project of the Middle East Forum. Twitter:  @IsraelVictory17 
The Trump administration has cut nearly $1 billion of aid that had been given annually to the Palestinians.  Having assessed the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to recognize Israel as the Jewish state and provide any hope for a peace process, the administration acknowledged the failure of past presidents to accept these facts and moved the U.S. embassy to Israel’s capital of Jerusalem.  The Palestinian Authority’s refusal to even talk to U.S. negotiators has stiffened President Trump’s resolve and led to the termination of all aid.

The Israel Victory Project was laid out in a Commentary magazine article last year by Daniel Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum.  Pipes argued that if an administration adopted an Israel Victory strategy, it would change the paradigm stemming from the failed negotiations of the Oslo process.  Pipes concluded that prolonged conflicts between ethnic antagonists rarely end by compromise or accommodation, but with victory on one side and unconditional acceptance of defeat on the other.  Exercising simple logic, many of those steps are being implemented by the Trump administration.  The introduction of the Oslo process rewarded bad behavior by steadily increasing funding to the Palestinians.  While the Israelis were pressured into making concessions, the Palestinians had no incentive to give up anything or to change their entrenched position of rejecting Israel’s existence.

A realistic assessment of the Oslo process since 1989 must include the massacre of over 1,000 Israelis by Palestinian terrorism and the killing of over 5,000 Palestinians, either in response to actions against the Israelis, or their being used as human shields by Palestinian terrorists.  Today, the corrupt West Bank Palestinian Authority leadership profits from peacemaking folly, while the Islamist kleptocrats who run the putative government in Gaza adhere to a genocidal ideology towards Israel and degrade the physical and mental health of its own population.
To the misguided, who mistakenly think American exceptionalism is to better the world with no expectations, the US goal is to make the world a better place in the interests of national security.  America’s repeated attempts at peacemaking with the Palestinians, albeit flawed ones, dictate a change in strategy.  Those who merely want a peace process with negotiations ad nauseum as a conflict management mechanism will not convince Palestinian society to give up on its goal of destroying Israel, one that has been pursued for 70 years.  

To dispel the myths that have cemented bad ideas, a new reality needs to be injected into the paradigm. This reality will impress upon the Palestinians that the opportunity to become part of the world community and embrace a brighter future for themselves and their children can only happen with a new leader who has the vision to cast off their destructive patterns.  Actions have consequences, and it’s time for a realistic policy that will change the failed paradigm in the Middle East. 

Summary accounts by Marilyn Stern, Communications Coordinator for the Middle East Forum