Posted by Suher Adi on August 28, 2018 in Blog
The Trump Administration has been working toward presenting his “deal of the century” and delivering Palestinian-Israeli peace during his tenure in office. Resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has been seen as a key issue to delivering “peace and stability” to the region. Every President in recent history has attempted to present themselves as an unbiased broker, but Trump has even done away with that pretense.
As with any administration before his, Trump came into office understanding that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict will remain prominent in the headlines, and thus would continue to be a major foreign policy focus. And just like other Presidents, he believes he may have what it takes to solve it once and for all. Recent actions however show otherwise.
Jared Kushner, Trump’s senior advisor who has dedicated much of his time to the conflict, and Nikki Haley, US Ambassador to the United Nations, have been working together to prepare for Trump’s peace deal. One of the biggest pieces of this so called “deal” came yesterday, when the administration announced they would be cutting $200 million in funding to UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency that has been providing jobs, healthcare, housing and education to displaced Palestinians since 1949.
This announcement was revealed in a series of emails leaked by Foreign Policy where Kushner shares that “It is important to have an honest and sincere effort to disrupt UNRWA." The emails reveal much about the administration’s plan to strip Palestinians from their histories as refugees displaced in 1948 by the creation of Israel. This effort is manifesting through a bill that essentially aims to eliminate the refugee status of millions of Palestinians, thereby erasing the history of injustices done to them and their families for generations.
Instead of affirming the rights of descendants of people who were horrifically uprooted from their homeland, the administration is deviating from the status quo by attempting to strip these refugees of the last tie to their land: their status. Though miles away from their original homes, many refugees have to live on other Palestinian land or foreign lands in Lebanon and Jordan, away from the places they long to one day return. This attempted erasure by the Palestinian refugee question is one piece of the Trump administration’s deal.
By first refusing to acknowledge Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine and moving the US embassy as a statement of unilateral support for making it the Israeli capital, the administration has removed this crucial and longstanding point of contention off the US-led negotiations table. Now, by defunding UNRWA and soon stripping Palestinian refugees of their status, the Right of Return will be completely off that table. This is an attack on Palestinian existence, and it eliminates the US role as a convener of any future negotiations.
Just days ago, Trump tried to restore faith in his peace deal by saying “Israel will pay a higher price” in peace negotiations and that Palestinians will "get something very good" in return for the embassy move. No specifics were given on what that “something” could be, but at this point it does not matter—especially when the recent cutting of funding for UNRWA and the recognition of Jerusalem solely as the capital of Israel have broken an already tilted table.
Talk, is frankly, really cheap, especially for this administration when it comes days prior to cutting hundreds of millions of dollars from refugees. Though President Abbas made a good faith effort to work with the Trump administration hoping to make some progress to regaining Palestinian rights, there is no reason to believe that this still holds true, and justifiably so. With the recent passing of the “Jewish Nation-State” bill, which formalized Israeli discrimination against its Palestinian citizens, and the now 50 yearlong occupation over the internationally-recognized Palestinian territories, it is clear that Israel refuses to give Palestinians equal rights or independence on their own land. So, at this point, Palestinian participation in Trump’s “peace deal” would amount to nothing more than negotiating what form of subjugation they are willing to live under.
Legitimate peace was never on the table. Trump is now clarifying that. One thing has come of this, the longstanding façade of the United States being an unbiased broker is now over.