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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 20 August 2018

Trump officials asked Jordan to end refugee status for two million Palestinians

Jared Kushner has also called for 'an honest and sincere effort to disrupt UNRWA'

Employees of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and their families protest against job cuts announced by the agency outside its offices in Gaza City on July 31, 2018. Said Khatib / AFP Photo
Employees of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and their families protest against job cuts announced by the agency outside its offices in Gaza City on July 31, 2018. Said Khatib / AFP Photo

The Trump White House asked King Abdullah of Jordan to revoke the refugee status of two million Palestinian refugees at a meeting in June, according to Palestinian officials.

The revelations came as President Trump’s son-in-law, and senior advisor, Jared Kushner, called for “an honest and sincere effort to disrupt UNRWA”, in emails obtained by Foreign Policy.

According to Palestinian officials who spoke to Foreign Policy, Mr Kushner pressed Jordan at a meeting in June, "to strip its more than 2 million registered Palestinians of their refugee status so that UNRWA would no longer need to operate there."

UNRWA is the UN agency established in 1949 to support Palestinian refugees, it currently supports some 5 million people spread across Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza.

The Palestinian leadership have made the right of return for those displaced a major issue in previous rounds of negotiations with Israel, which has flatly denied it as an option.

In the same email, Mr Kushner wrote “This [agency] perpetuates a status quo, is corrupt, inefficient and doesn’t help peace”.

“Our goal can’t be to keep things stable and as they are. … Sometimes you have to strategically risk breaking things in order to get there.”

In other emails, Mr Kushner also made reference to the Trump administration’s January decision to cut UNRWA funding by half, withholding $65 million of its budget. “UNRWA has been threatening us for six months that if they don’t get a check they will close schools. Nothing has happened,” he wrote in one email.

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The emails were leaked as it was revealed by AP that Mr Kushner and other senior officials had begun recruiting a team ahead of a roll out of their widely speculated-over Middle East peace plan.

The National Security Council last week began approaching other agencies seeking volunteers to join the team, which will work for Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, another senior advisor to President Trump, according to the officials.

The team, which is being set up to organize the peace plan's public presentation and any negotiations that may ensue, will comprise three units: one concentrating on its political and security details, one on its significant economic focus and one on strategic communications, the officials said.

According to Palestinian officials, the US asked Jordan's King Abdullah to revoke the refugee status of two million Palestinian refugees at a meeting in June. Susan Walsh / AP Photo
According to Palestinian officials, the US asked Jordan's King Abdullah to revoke the refugee status of two million Palestinian refugees at a meeting in June. Susan Walsh / AP Photo

The creation of a White House team is the first evidence in months that a plan is advancing. Although Trump officials have long promised the most comprehensive package ever put forward toward resolving the conflict, the emerging plan has not been described with even a small amount of detail by Mr Kushner, Mr Greenblatt or any other official.

Timing on the release of the plan remains undecided. The State Department, Pentagon, intelligence agencies and Congress have been asked to detail personnel to the team for six months to a year, according to the officials, who were not authorized to publicly discuss the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity.

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