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UNRWA Through Jordanian Eyes

Al Khaleej al-Jadid, UAE, August 14

As if the crisis over the American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital wasn’t enough, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is now facing yet another predicament generated by the Trump administration: the attempt to strip millions of Palestinians of their refugee status. White House officials have made clear their intention to cut funding for the UN’s Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), and eventually bring an end to the organization’s existence. This would pose serious political and financial repercussions for Jordan, where over 125,000 students currently attend UNRWA schools, while 10,000 others are employed by them. The American funding constitutes roughly half of UNRWA’s budget, and is thus crucial for the organization to survive. Aware of this risk, the Jordanian government was quick to convene an international donor conference in Rome last March, where it raised over $100 million in aid pledges to UNRWA from various governments. The fear in Amman is that the collapse of UNRWA would pose excessive pressure on an already-faltering Jordanian economy, forcing the government to take out excessive loans in support of its Palestinian population. According to Jordan’s perspective, this is nothing short of a threat to the Kingdom’s national security. The Palestinian refugee problem, together with the issue of Jerusalem and final border arrangements, are all political matters that must be negotiated and determined by the Israelis and the Palestinians themselves. Any attempt to change the status quo on the ground through an American intervention, especially one designed to eliminate these issues from the table, is dangerous to Jordan’s political stability. Unfortunately, it seems as if King Abdullah of Jordan is alone in this battle. Other Arab nations have barely agreed to ramp up their support for UNWRA, let alone confront Washington on this issue. In the wake of such a faint Arab coalition to support Palestine, it seems more and more likely that Trump’s dreadful “deal of the century” might actually come into fruition with minimal, if any, Arab push-back. –Muhammad Abu Riman

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