Jared Kushner, U.S. President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law, has reportedly pressured Jordan to strip the refugee status of more than two million registered Palestinians living in the country.
Hasan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization's Executive Committee, claimed that the senior aide's move was part of a broader effort by him and the U.S. administration to render UNRWA, the UN aid agency providing relief to Palestinian, irrelevant and halt its work in Jordan and in other countries in the Middle East.
"[Kushner said] the resettlement has to take place in the host countries and these governments can do the job that UNRWA was doing," Ashrawi said.
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The Palestinians' chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, told reporters after Kushner's visit to Jordan in June that the latter's delegation said it was ready to stop UNRWA funding and redirect the sum allocated to the agency to Jordan and other countries that host refugees.
Emails written by Kushner and obtained by Foreign Policy point to Kushner's evident dismay with the UN agency as well as to discreet attempts to put a stop to UNRWA's work — a move that would essentially render millions of Palestinian refugees status-less.
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"It is important to have an honest and sincere effort to disrupt UNRWA," the senior aide reportedly wrote Trump's Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt in an email dating back to January 11, 2018. "This [agency] perpetuates a status quo, is corrupt, inefficient and doesn't help peace," Kushner said of UNRWA.
Other such expressions were reportedly repeated in different exchanges the president's son-in-law had with other U.S. officials.
Kushner, who has been toiling on a peace plan that Washington is slated to present to Israel and the Palestinians in the near future, was trying to disrupt the UN agency's work as part of a bigger move, which American and Palestinian officials say is an attempt to completely remove the Palestinian refugee issue from the negotiations table.
There are at least two different bills currently being reviewed in Congress regarding this issue.
"Our goal can't be to keep things stable and as they are [S]ometimes you have to strategically risk breaking things in order to get there," Kushner was quoted as writing to Greenblatt in the same email.
The U.S. administration has helped fund UNRWA since it was formed in 1949 to provide aid to Palestinians displaced from their homes following the establishment of the State of Israel. The agency is considered to be a significant actor in the region, mainly due to the fact that it has been providing food and other essential services to Palestinian refugees for decades.
But while previous administrations have considered the agency to be an important contributor to the region, the newly disclosed emails reveal the current team in the White House may be willing to tip the balance in Israel's favor by changing the terms of the Palestinian refugee issue and downgrading UNRWA's significance as well as the scope of its activity.