Tue, 18 Jun 2019

Greenblatt says UNRWA model has failed Palestinian people

By Jay Jackson, Southeast Asia News
23 May 2019, 08:42 GMT+10

NEW YORK, New York - U.S. President Donald Trump's Special Envoy to the Middle East and one of two Chief Negotiators for Mr Trump's 'Deal of the Century,' has told the UN Security Council it is time to move past band-aid solutions and political assertions, into the adult world of hard choices, in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In a wide-ranging briefing to the security council on Tuesday, Jason Greenblatt, hit out at the UNRWA arguing it was applying band-aid' solutions. He hit out at Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad too, blaming them for the plight of the people of Gaza. He also derided UNRWA, saying the prolonged crisis has been "caused by UNRWA's inability to fulfill its original mandate."

In relation to the recent outburst of hostilities, the U.S. envoy said the innocent victims, Israeli and Pelstinian, deserve better. "The families of the four Israelis who died and the 200 Israelis injured, the Palestinian civilians killed and injured by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad attacks they all deserve better," he told the council.

"It is simply unacceptable that Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad continue to target Israeli communities, including hospitals and schools, in a cynical attempt to extract concessions from Israel."

"It is simply unacceptable that Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad continue to use civilians in Gaza, including children, as human shields," Mr Greenblatt said.

"It is simply unacceptable that Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad continue to siphon the scarce resources of the people of Gaza to build their terror arsenal, while preventing donor aid from reaching the people."

"There will be no end to this suffering until all of us, together, say in public what I believe many of you are thinking: Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad are to blame for the suffering of the people of Gaza," the envoy asserted.

He went on to say nothing can be meaningfully fixed until thes egroups renounce terror and cease their acts of violence and their vow to destroy Israel. "When will the Security Council say this out loud? When will we clearly reject this terrorism?" he asked.

Mr Greenblatt did acknowled the the Gazans have endured "12 years of suffering and deprivation," during the Israeli and Egyptian blockade. He pointed out however that the Palestinians generally need an economic way out of their dilemma, from which a political solution could follow.

He derided the UNRWA, saying it was not the answer, and that it was continuing to run out of money.

After expressing his appreciation to UNRWA Commissioner General Krhenbhl for his earlier briefing to the security council, and for his work over the years, Mr Greenblatt on Tuesday said it was time for he and all of the security council to face the reality that the UNRWA model had failed the Palestinian people. "UNRWA's business model, which is inherently tied to an endlessly and exponentially expanding community of beneficiaries, is in permanent crisis mode," he said.

"That is why the United States decided that it will no longer commit to funding this irredeemably flawed operation."

"The UNRWA model cannot provide to Palestinians what they deserve a life where they can plan for their future and the future of their children, and one where they know whether schools and health clinics will remain open," he said.

"We did not come to this conclusion lightly. Since UNRWA's founding, the U.S. has donated $6 billion. Let me repeat that: $6 billion vastly more than any other country. And yet year after year, UNRWA funding fell short."

"Year after year, budget shortfalls threatened essential services to Palestinian mothers and children. Year after year, UNRWA and other donors turned to the United States to make up the shortfall. And year after year, Palestinians in refugee camps were not given the opportunity to build any future; they were misled and used as political pawns and commodities instead of treated as human beings," said Greenblatt.

"UNRWA is currently running on fumes, surviving on a surge in foreign donations in 2018 that is unlikely to be sustained this year, or in the future."

"What happens when UNRWA's bank account is empty again? We need to be honest about the situation," said the U.S. envoy.

"UNRWA is a band-aid, and the Palestinians who use its services deserve better much better. We do not have to wait until a comprehensive solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is in place to address that fact."

"For too long, we have dismissed the dismal situation of Palestinians in refugee camps as an unavoidable byproduct of the lack of a negotiated peace between Israel and the Palestinians. But nothing stops the international community from choosing to reach out its hand to Palestinians living in refugee camps today to address their very real everyday needs in a sustainable way, while we all continue to work toward a lasting and comprehensive peace.," Greenblatt said.

"We need to engage with host governments to start a conversation about planning the transition of UNRWA services to host governments, or to other international or local non-governmental organizations, as appropriate. The United States is ready to participate in that conversation. We tried to begin that conversation before we cut our aid to UNRWA. No one wanted to engage in that conversation back then. We remain ready to begin that conversation now. It is time to start."

"We do not advance a comprehensive and enduring peace by ignoring the reality that UNRWA is unable to fulfill the mandate given to it by the General Assembly. We advance a comprehensive and enduring peace by making it clear that the international community is fully committed to providing a brighter future for today's Palestinians and their children," said Greenblatt.

"Palestinians have been held hostage for too long to UN resolutions, regional politics, donor fatigue, and weak leadership. It has been 70 years three generations of Palestinians who have suffered tremendously."

"A similar number of Jewish refugees expelled from Arab lands shortly after the creation of the state of Israel also suffered tremendously. But there is a difference: those Jewish refugees' needs for basic services and their desire to build a brighter future for their children were not held hostage to politics," the envoy said.

"And it is time for the needs of Palestinians for basic services and their desire to build a brighter future for their children to stop being held hostage to politics. Do we not have an obligation to the Palestinians to make this transition?"

Mr Greenblatt went on to explain the purpose of the U.S.-led financial workship to be held in the Bahrain capital Manama in June, which Saudi Arabia and the UAE will attend, but which the Palestinians plan to boycott. It is not known whether Israel will send a representative.

"Next month, in Bahrain, we and many others will participate in an economic workshop on an alternative path with the potential to unlock a prosperous future for the Palestinians. This is the first stage of a process that we want to begin to showcase what could be how, if we can achieve a political solution to the conflict, we can also transform the lives of the Palestinians. It would be a mistake for the Palestinians not to join us. They have nothing to lose and much to gain if they do join us. But it is, of course, their choice," said Greenblatt.

"I cannot but help point out the irony that at the time of our conference in Bahrain, which can pave the way to prosperity for Palestinians, UNRWA is hosting a pledging conference for a broken system."

It should be noted as a UNRWA spokesperson advised after the security council meetiung, the UNRWA conference was scheduled and announced well in advance of the Bahrain meeting.

"The United States is committed to talking with others about how best to address the fearful uncertainty of UNRWA service recipients who aren't sure whether schools or clinics will open and how we might help them actually build new lives, with or without a peace agreement," the U.S. envoy told the Security Council.

"But we're also committed to resolutely standing by Israel as it addresses the urgent challenges presented by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad attacks from Gaza or elsewhere."

"I approach this with humility. I acknowledge I have not brought with me today a solution either to the acute crisis of Hamas's violent and illegitimate rule over Gaza, or to the prolonged crisis caused by UNRWA's inability to fulfill its original mandate, or any of the other challenges posed by this extraordinary conflict."

"What we do know is that what we have today is not the answer. We do know that Palestinians and Israelis both deserve better. We do know that it is time to move past band-aid solutions and political assertions, into the adult world of hard choices," said Greenblatt.

"The hopes and dreams of Palestinians living in refugee camps have been suspended for too long. So have the hopes and dreams of Palestinians living under Hamas' punishing rule in Gaza. And so too have the hopes of Israelis who have lived under constant threats for decades and who yearn for peace."

"This conflict is sad, and tragic, and complex on so many levels. But we must stop pretending that UNRWA and UN resolutions will somehow solve the conflict. They simply won't," said the envoy.

"Let's work together to find a real cure," he concluded.

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