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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Former US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro tweets, in reaction to a thread on Netanyahu's saying it it time to get rid of UNRWA:

It isn't easy to get rid of an entrenched 70 year old bureaucracy - but with some willpower, it is possible. And getting rid of UNRWA will be good for the entire Middle East.

The first and most important thing that needs to be done is to get the Gulf states on board with the plan. The oil-rich states need brainpower and the next generation of workers, and among Arabs, Palestinians are the best educated and hardest working of all Arabs. Dubai and Saudi Arabia want to diversify their economic base beyond oil, and they want to do it if possible with Arab talent. The fit is obvious.

Palestinians have already been instrumental in building much of the Gulf, but they didn't have citizenship rights. It is time for the US to pressure the newly friendly Sunni Gulf states aligning against the Shiites to allow Palestinians from Lebanon, Jordan and Syria - and Gaza! - to immigrate and become citizens. The program would be voluntary but it would be very popular, as past experience with limited granting of citizenship to Palestinians in Egypt and Lebanon show. It is an investment that would pay off for everyone.

The Gulf states can in turn pressure the Arab League to rescind its racist decision from the 1950s to not allow Palestinians to become citizens.

The UN must be pressured by the US and the EU to rid itself of the noxious UNRWA definition of "refugee" that helps no one and only serves to perpetuate a permanent state of victimhood.

In Jordan, the vast majority of Palestinians are already Jordanian citizens. Redirecting the UNRWA budget towards Jordan over a five year period for the purpose of demolishing the camps, building new communities - and naturalizing the Palestinians who aren't citizens - is an idea that is over-ripe. Jordan needs the cash, and to get rid of UNRWA it would be worth it to increase the amount given beyond UNRWA's budget for, say, 5-8 years to allow the full integration of Palestinian camp-dwellers into Jordanian society.

In Syria, nothing much can be done while the country disintegrates. A new Syria could act to get rid of UNRWA camps, but in the meanwhile the many Syrian refugees of Palestinian origin should be immediately placed under the aegis of UNHCR like other refugees and those who qualify for moving to the Gulf should do so. Of course, the portion of UNRWA's budget dedicated to Syrian refugees should go to UNHCR as well for now.

The Palestinian "refugees" in the West Bank should not exist 20 years after self-rule. The entire UNRWA budget for the West Bank should simply be eliminated. The PLO needs to treat all its citizens equally, and that means taking responsibility for them. Let them beg UNRWA's donor nations to help them demolish  the camps, build real houses and to make the schools and medical clinics independent.

Now that Hamas is under so much pressure from the Arab world, UNRWA's disappearance from Gaza can nail the coffin shut. Shut down UNRWA in Gaza immediately, forcing Hamas to either find some way to support these "refugees" or forcing them to allow the PA to take over again with the five year UNRWA budget dedicated to Gaza only going to the PA when Hamas capitulates. Moreover, give the option for the people in the camps to move to the West Bank, to Arab countries or even to Europe.

Lebanon is the most intractable problem, because as a country they are more anti-Palestinian than any other in the world. (They would protest that characterization but no country treats Palestinians worse.) As it is, UNRWA already exaggerates the number of "refugees" in Lebanon by nearly 100%. Lebanon should be pressured by the world community and Arab nations themselves to stop putting Palestinians in open-air prisons, allow them the rights to work in any profession and to live wherever they want, to  give them real human rights and give them a path to citizenship in the entire Arab world - let them choose where they want to live.

The best way to force the Arab countries to treat their Palestinian "guests" as more than cannon fodder is using the honor/shame system against them. Shame them into treating Palestinians at least as good as any other Arab non-citizen, and give them a path to naturalization. 

Now happens to be the perfect time to talk about dismantling UNRWA. And it is over 60 years past the time to finally do something about it.

We have lots of ideas, but we need more resources to be even more effective. Please donate today to help get the message out and to help defend Israel.


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