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August 25, 2018 2:03 pm

Report: Trump Administration to Take Palestinian ‘Right of Return’ Off the Table

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

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US President Donald Trump with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Ben Gurion International Airport on May 23, 2017. Photo by Kobi Gideon / GPO

The Trump administration is prepared to announce a new policy that effectively cancels the so-called “right of return” for Palestinian refugees.

According to Israel’s Channel 2, the policy relates to both the refugees themselves and UNRWA, the UN agency that serves them.

UNRWA is controversial because it counts as refugees not only those Palestinians displaced in Israel’s 1948 War of Independence, but also their descendants. As a result, there are now over five million registered Palestinian refugees, an enormous number of whom have never set foot in what was British Mandatory Palestine.

The Palestinians insist the refugees must be allowed to return to Israel, which would effectively destroy the country and replace it with an Arab-majority state.

According to the Channel 2 report, the Trump administration’s plan to solve the issue will be announced at the beginning of September and will have several stages.

First, a report will be issued on the Palestinian refugees, which will number them at approximately 500,000, rather than the five million registered by UNRWA.

Second, the US will formally reject UNRWA’s definition of refugee status as inheritable.

Third, UNRWA’s budget for operating in the West Bank will be cut.

Fourth, Israel will be asked to reconsider allowing UNRWA to operate in the West Bank altogether, in order to prevent the Arab countries from making up the shortfall from the US cuts.

According to Channel 2, the Israeli government sees the plan as a “historic step” on par with Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US embassy there. They see it as effectively taking the refugee issue — one of the thorniest in the Middle East conflict — off the table.

The White House had no comment on the story, saying only that it would make its stance clear at the appropriate time.

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