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Israel, US seek to redefine Palestinian refugees

Israeli diplomats claim that the UNRWA’s mandate must be revised so that the issue of Palestinian refugees will include only the generation that really lost its home.
Bags containing aid from the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) are seen ahead of their transfer to the Gaza Strip, inside the Kerem Shalom border crossing terminal between Israel and Gaza Strip, Israel August 15, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Cohen - RC12571A1CB0
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In the words of President Donald Trump, the (symbolic) transfer of the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem served to take the Jerusalem problem “off the table.” Trump put a checkmark next to the Jerusalem issue, a conundrum that has cast a shadow on anyone who tried to mediate between Israel and the Palestinians ever since the 1993 Oslo Accord. Now, it seems, Trump is also removing the Palestinian refugee problem from the agenda. This is an issue that the Palestinian narrative views as central and imperative, even more than Jerusalem.

How is Trump accomplishing this? In his own way: The American administration stops recognizing the approximately 5 million Palestinian refugees listed by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which is charged with aiding them. From now on, only those who were de facto refugees in 1948 will be considered refugees today. It was in 1948 that the Arab countries attacked Israel immediately after the State of Israel was declared, which resulted in the “Nakba’’ ("catastrophe" in Arabic) — the great Palestinian defeat. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were expelled from the territories of the Jewish state in the making to cities of refuge across the entire area. Simultaneously with this dramatic change of policy, the United States is making a sharp cutback of about $200 million in the monetary aid it gives the Palestinians. This constitutes a declaration of war on the way the UN has functioned over the last 70 years to empower and perpetuate the problem of the Palestinian refugees instead of acting to resolve it.

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