Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s senior advisor and son-in-law, has been actively working to end the special refugee status of nearly five million Palestinians through the abolishment of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), according to a report from Foreign Policy magazine.
Kushner criticized UNRWA heavily before the Trump administration cut nearly half of its aid to the Palestinian refugee agency, according to internal emails published by Foreign Policy on Friday.
“It is important to have an honest and sincere effort to disrupt UNRWA,” Kushner wrote in an email to other senior officials, including Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt, in January just a few days before the US announced it would cut more than half of its 125$ million in annual aid to UNRWA.
The Trump administration pointed to Palestinians’ lack of willingness to negotiate with Israel with the US as mediator as the primary reason for the cut, I24 News reported.
“This [agency] perpetuates the status quo, is corrupt, inefficient and doesn’t help peace,” he wrote.
“Our goal can’t be to keep things stable and as they are… Sometimes you have to strategically risk breaking things in order to get there,” he reportedly added.
Palestinian leaders, like top PA negotiator Saeb Erekat, have said that dismantling UNRWA is an effort to eliminate the question of right of return and refugee status from the peace process agenda.
UNRWA announced last week that it would be cutting more than 250 jobs for Palestinians, sparking protests and one incident where an ex-employee of UNRWA set himself on fire in Gaza.
Unlike other UN agencies dedicated to helping refugees, UNRWA is dedicated to a single group, Palestinian refugees, who are defined by the organization as “persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood.”