The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has been forced to justify its existence at the United Nations ahead of a pledging conference later this month.
UNRWA came under fire by Jason Greenblatt, US Special Envoy for International Negotiations, at a Security Council meeting late last month.
“The UNRWA model has failed the Palestinian people,” he said, describing the Agency as an “irredeemably flawed operation” and a “band-aid” solution. Instead, he proposed an integration of the Agency’s services into government and non-governmental organisations’ structures.
UNRWA has for years struggled to meet its budget. Last year, around 42 countries and institutions increased their contributions to erase an unprecedented deficit of US$446 million.
Greenblatt noted the United States was frequently called upon to fill budget gaps. Having pledged around US$6 billion to the organisation over the course of its existence, he reaffirmed his government’s refusal to continue to do so.
Instead, the United States has called for a conference in Bahrain—June 25-26– to discuss possible solutions to the Palestine refugee crisis. Many see this as compensation for withdrawing funding for UNRWA.
I had not seen an explicit link between the Bahrain conference and UNRWA before, but it makes one think: is Greenblatt planning an UNRWA surprise?
Has the US lined up support from the UAE and Saudi Arabia to, perhaps, announce that they would allow Palestinians to become citizens? The Gulf states have had problems with foreign workers who take up two thirds of the Saudi labor force, and replacing them with Palestinians – who are generally more industrious than native Saudis – could help modernize Saudi Arabia and ready it for a post-oil world.
The rush for Palestinian “refugees” to qualify for such a program would show the world how hollow are the words of their leaders when they say that their people would rather remain stateless until “return.”
There are going to be some interesting things coming out of Bahrain.
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