U.S. President Donald Trump's top adviser for the Middle East, his son-in-law Jared Kushner, wants to strip millions of Palestinians of their refugee status in an effort to undermine the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), according to emails reported by Foreign Policy (FP) on Friday.
Under Trump's leadership, Kushner – who is a Jewish-American with strong financial ties to Israel – has been tasked with overseeing the so-called "Middle East peace process." However, Trump and Kushner's efforts thus far have shown little interest in supporting the rights and demands of Palestinians.
The emails reported by FP reveal that Kushner aimed to strip millions of Palestinians in Jordan of vital aid that comes as a result of their refugee status.
“It is important to have an honest and sincere effort to disrupt UNRWA,” Kushner allegedly wrote in one email, dated Jan. 11 and addressed to several senior officials, including Trump’s Middle East peace envoy, Jason Greenblatt.
“This [agency] perpetuates a status quo, is corrupt, inefficient and doesn’t help peace,” he wrote.
Hanan Ashrawi, a member of Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, told FP that Kushner insisted the resettlement of Palestinian refugees must take place in host countries.
Jordan, Lebanon and Syria host the bulk of Palestinians refugees, many of whom have lived with refugee status for decades and generations. The "right of return" has long been an issue of tension between Palestinians and Israelis, with Israeli leaders refusing to accept the possibility of refugees or their descendants returning to their ancestral land.
"They want to take a really irresponsible, dangerous decision and the whole region will suffer,” Ashrawi said, commenting on the Trump administration's position.
Since Trump took office, the U.S. has officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, despite Palestine also claiming the city as its capital. In May, Kushner and his wife, Trump's daughter Ivanka, traveled to Jerusalem to open a new U.S. embassy to Israel.
The move was met with intense protests by Palestinians, with several being killed by Israeli soldiers as they demonstrated against the U.S. decision. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has refused to negotiate with Washington as a result.
As prominent British journalist Robert Fisk, who has spent his career reporting from the Middle East, wrote this week, undermining the UNRWA will also significantly impact Palestinians living in Gaza.
"More than half of Gaza’s 2 million population, with a 44 per cent unemployment rate, are dependent on UNRWA," Fisk wrote for The Independent, criticizing Trump's policy toward Palestine.
"Nothing, however, is 'groundbreaking' about the Trump 'deal of the century' today, except the continued breaking of ground for new Jewish 'settlements' ... on the hilltops of the West Bank," Fisk added.