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UNRWAveling, Trilateral Confederation, Blowin’ in the Wind


UNRWA Head Signals US Defunding Won’t Shut Down Agency

Times of Israel, September 4th 2018

Recap:

The US will defund the United Nation’s Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA). The US supplies 30% of the total UNRWA budget, which provides healthcare, education, and social services to Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. The unemployment rate in Gaza is 44% [1].

The Context:

  • UNRWA grants refugee status to all descendants of Palestinians who left or fled Israel in 1948, regardless of where they live today. Whereas the original number of refugees hovers at approximately 700,000, there are an estimated five million Palestinian refugees today according to UNRWA’s definition. The definition of a Palestinian refugee differs from all other refugees.

  • Israel has long called for an end to UNRWA for perpetuating “the myth of the eternal refugee status of the Palestinians” and “sustaining an illegitimate instrument aimed at the destruction of the State of Israel.” Palestinian officials say the US “has disqualified themselves from any role in the peace process and destroyed all prospects of peace” [2] for its "flagrant assault" against the Palestinian people [3].

  • In peace talks, Palestinian leaders have demanded a “right of return” for Palestinian refugees that, if accepted by Israel, would spell the end of Israel as a majority Jewish state [4]. Washington has discussed capping the number it officially recognizes as Palestinian refugees at only 500,000 [5]. A change in the definition and number of Palestinian refugees could undermine Palestinian's demand for the right of return [6].

  • Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas vowed to challenge the US decision to defund UNRWA at the United Nations General Assembly [7].

Conversation Points:

  • Is UNRWA a part of the refugee problem or solution?

  • Will Washington’s efforts to weaken UNRWA ultimately strengthen Hamas and endanger Israel’s security?

  • Were the UNRWA cuts a political decision made as a result of tensions between the US and Palestinian Authority?

  • Why doesn’t anyone talk about the equal number of Middle-Eastern Jewish refugees displaced as a result of Israel’s establishment?

US Sounds Abbas Out on Palestinian-Jordan Confederation

Gwen Ackerman and Fadwa Hodali, Bloomberg, September 2nd 2018

Recap:

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas expressed a willingness to consider a trilateral confederation that includes Jordan and Israel, a dramatic departure from his longstanding insistence on a two-state solution.

The Context

  • A confederacy with Jordan would likely mean an end to Palestinian aspirations for independence. The idea has long been advocated by Israelis who are opposed to an independent Palestinian state. A confederation would establish Palestine as an entity within the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and although some aspects of the arrangement would lead to Palestinian sovereignty, key decisions related to governance, infrastructure and military will fall to Jordanian leadership.

  • Confederation with Jordan has been on the Palestinian agenda since 1984, although, as a second act to a two-state solution [8].

  • Jordan quickly rebuffed confederation as “an attempt to liquidate the Palestinian issue at the expense of Jordan [9].” Jordan’s position is an Israeli-Palestinian two-state solution [10].

  • US President Donald Trump has pledged to unveil a plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace, saying he wanted to reach the "ultimate deal" during his time in office. Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner is among those working on the plan [11].

Conversation Points:

  • What caused Abbas’ change in position?

  • Why might Israel be interested in a Palestinian-Jordanian confederation?

  • Why is Jordan against confederation even though the majority of its population is Palestinian?

Shofar to Come to Hundreds of Parks Throughout Israel

Jerusalem Post, September 5th 2018

Recap:

The third annual Shofar in the Park program will allow Jews at all levels of observance to connect to the traditional and festive celebrations of Rosh Hashana.

The Context:

  • Shofar in the Park is an offshoot of Tzohar’s annual Yom Kippur Praying Together program, which has grown to 350 communities around Israel. This year, Tzohar expects to host 65,000 participants and make the high holidays accessible, interesting, and relevant to Jews of all levels of observance, said Tzohar’s founder Rabbi David Stav [12].

  • Shofar in the Park will take place in more than 200 parks, central squares, community centers and public spaces throughout Israel. Blowing the shofar will be at the core of the gathering, together with group singing, abridged prayers and activities for children.

Conversation Points:

  • Is there a right way to connect to the high holidays?

Notes:

  1. Wishing away Palestinian refugees: End of US' UNRWA aid explained, Al Jazeera, September 2nd 2018

  2. Head of Palestinian refugee agency rejects U.S. criticism, says his organization will survive, Ruth Eglash, Washington Post, September 3rd 2018

  3. UNRWA: Millions of Palestinian refugees 'cannot be wished away’, Ynet News, September 3rd 2018

  4. US ends all funding to UN agency for Palestinian refugees, Clare Foran and Elise Labott, CNN September 1st 2018

  5. Wishing away Palestinian refugees: End of US' UNRWA aid explained, Al Jazeera, September 2nd 2018

  6. UNRWA: Millions of Palestinian refugees 'cannot be wished away’, Ynetnews, September 3rd 2018

  7. President considering going to UN to challenge US decision on UNRWA - spokesman, WAFA, September 1, 2018

  8. PA: 'Palestine' first, then 'confederation', Dalit Halevi, Israel National News, September 3rd 2018

  9. Jordan-Palestine confederation issue ‘not on the table’ — gov’t, Mohammad Ghazal, Jordan Times, September 4th 2018

  10. Ibid.

  11. US team asked Abbas about Jordan-Palestinian confederation: NGO, Alraby, September 2nd 2018

  12. Shofar program blows sounds of Rosh Hashanah into public spaces, Jessica Steinberg, Times of Israel, September 4th 2018