According to Israeli Hebrew-language media outlets, unnamed officials in the US administration told them that the US Presidents plans in the coming weeks to announce the rejection of the right of return of five million Palestinian refugees, along with a suspension of all funding to the United Nations Refugee and Works Agency, which provides emergency food aid to millions of Palestinian refugees.
Palestinian refugees consist of the 750,000 Palestinians who were forcibly removed from their homes inside what is now Israel during the creation of that state in 1948 and their descendants, as well as the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians forcibly removed in 1967 with the Israeli military takeover of Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza and their descendants.
According to +972Mag, “Palestinian refugees are sentenced to life at birth, and for many of them even a winning lottery ticket wouldn’t be enough to buy the right to own property, or enough education to become a lawyer or a doctor. Most of the 5 million refugees registered with UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) in five different host countries live in similar or worse conditions, permanently deprived of most rights ascribed to the citizens of any country.
“There are more than 70 professions denied to Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, for example, and over 80 of them in Jordan. In neither country can they work even as a taxi driver, for that would require a driver’s license and most of them cannot legally possess one. In Lebanon, even the materials necessary for building a refugee shack are regulated by law – bricks and a proper roof are too permanent, and thus illegal.”
The U.S. rejection of the Palestinian right of return will make that country’s role as a mediator in the conflict much more difficult to reconcile with its policy position – especially coming in the wake of the December decision by Donald Trump to move the U.S. Consulate from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move which denies the right to exist of the nearly one million Palestinian residents of Jerusalem.
According to the Israeli media reports, the U.S. will reject the United Nations definition of Palestinian refugees, which includes 5.3 million people living in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. Instead, the current U.S. administration will recognize just half a million refugees – the elderly survivors of the 1948 Nakba (Catastrophe) and 1967 Naksa (Setback) themselves, and not their descendants.
For decades, Palestinians living in squalid conditions in refugee camps have anxiously awaited the results of peace talks that have repeatedly promised them a return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel. The U.S., through various administrations, has frequently acted as a mediator in these peace talks through the years – but has never succeeded in bringing about a lasting peace. The Palestine Liberation Organization, which became the Palestinian Authority in 1993, has continually confronted the U.S. about the one-sidedness of its mediation efforts, in which its representatives have worked with Israeli authorities to bully the Palestinian representatives into accepting terms for peace that negate the basic Palestinian rights.
The three core demands of the Palestinian people are the right of return of the Palestinian refugees, the release of all Palestinian political prisoners, and the unification of Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state.
The U.S. has, over the last year and a half of the Trump presidency, has taken steps to effectively deny each of these demands – from the U.S. Embassy move to the support of Israeli imprisonment of Palestinian political leaders and children, to the upcoming plan to deny the Palestinian refugees their right of return.