A bombshell report published by the French newspaper Le Monde claims the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is secretly colluding with Israel to eliminate the United Nations Works and Relief Agency (UNRWA) responsible for the welfare of Palestinian refugees in the Middle East. The move would forever shut the door on 5.7 million refugees returning to their homes and land in Israel and the occupied Palestinian Territories, which is of course exactly what Israel wants to achieve.

The report alleges Israeli and Emirati officials have established a “strategic axis” for the purpose of putting in place “a plan of action aimed at making UNWRA progressively disappear, without conditioning this on any resolution of the [Palestinian] refugee problem.”

Significantly, UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan has chosen not to respond to Le Monde’s request for comment, which is revealing in itself, leaving open questions regarding the UAE’s motives and sentiments as they relate to the Palestinian people.

It’s especially eyebrow raising, given the UAE’s now closest ally – Israel – makes no secret of its intent to strip Palestinian refugees of their international law protected right to return, after Israeli military and Jewish militias had forcibly displaced them and/or their family members during the Nakba (“catastrophe”) of 1948 and again after the 1967 war, which led to the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

Two years ago, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet that “UNWRA needs to disappear from this world,” arguing the organization “perpetuates the problem of the Palestinian refugees” and “perpetuates the narrative of the so-called ‘right of return’ with the aim of eliminating the State of Israel.”

Netanyahu gave these comments in response to US President Donald Trump’s threat to cut aid to the refugee agency if the Palestinian Authority refused to be a willing but coerced participant in Trump’s ostensible “Deal of the Century.” He subsequently fulfilled his threat on September 9, 2018 to mark the Jewish New year, when he told American Jewish leaders, “I stopped massive amounts of money that we were paying to the Palestinians,” adding, “We’re not paying until you make a deal.”

Under Trump, the United States, once UNRWA’s largest single donor, cut its contributions from US$360 million to US$60 million in 2018 and then to zero in 2019.

Under Trump, the United States, once UNRWA’s largest single donor, cut its contributions from US$360 million to US$60 million in 2018 and then to zero in 2019.

Trump’s vindictive cruelty and lack of empathy is measured in the loss and deprecation of vital lifesaving and life-nurturing humanitarian aid, including the funding of food services, health clinics, vaccinations, and schools. It’s the primary source of aid for the millions of Palestinian refugees who have been confined and trapped in impoverished refugee camps throughout Gaza, West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt.

In Gaza, or what is the world’s largest open-air prison, UNWRA aid accounts for roughly 40 percent of the Palestinian enclave’s budget. The abolishment of the agency would result in Palestinian refugees throughout the Middle East being placed under the care of the global UN High Commissioner for Refugees agency (UNHCR), and thus forever melting them into a sea of permanently and semi-permanently displaced people.

Trump’s disdain for Palestinians, Muslims, and refugees is well known, while Netanyahu’s hostility towards all vestige of Palestinian life and existence screams loudly from each and every one of the Israeli leader’s pores, leaving one to wonder what does Emirati Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (MbZ) have to gain diplomatically and financially from further throwing Palestinian refugees to the wolves.

It’s worth remembering the UAE matched and mirrored Trump’s elimination of US aid to Palestinian refugees by slashing its own contribution to UNWRA from US$52 million in 2019 to only US$1 million in 2020, representing a 98 percent cut and signaling ever increasing policy synchronicity between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv.

The UAE has been rewarded for publicly normalizing ties with Israel by being granted access to Israeli trade, weapons, and intelligence.

Moreover, the UAE has been rewarded for publicly normalizing ties with Israel by being granted access to Israeli trade, weapons, and intelligence, particularly arms and military intelligence tools that had been previously denied to Arab Gulf states under the United States’ long-standing pledge to maintain Israel’s “qualitative military edge,” a policy that every US president since Lyndon Johnson has reaffirmed.

The F-35 fighter jet, considered the most lethal combat warplane in the world, is one example of US military hardware the UAE is desperate to procure. Only days after the US presidential election was determined in former Vice President Joe Biden’s favor, Trump informed Congress of his decision to approve the sale of 50 F-35 fighter jets and 18 MQ-9 Reaper Drones to the UAE.

A bipartisan group of congressional lawmakers countered by introducing legislation to halt the transfer, however, citing concerns the US$23 billion arms package is being rushed through and at risk of forfeiting sensitive and confidential US military technology to UAE allies Russia and China – but more significantly – and here’s the kicker – both Democrat and Republican leaders fear it will undermine Israel’s “qualitative military edge.”

If you’re MbZ, then you would interpret this congressional hesitancy as an invitation or incentivization to go even further in publicly solidifying your support for Israel and the Netanyahu government, particularly when US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman gave the game away in his February 2020 speech, stating:

“The more the Emirates become a friend of Israel, become a partner of Israel, become a regional ally of the United States, I think obviously that alters the threat assessment and could work out to the Emirates’ benefit [on future weapon sales].”

In other words, and if this assessment is true, then the UAE is willing to sacrifice the fate of 5.7 million Palestinian refugees in exchange for US fighter jets and armed drones that had already been promised to it by the Trump administration, in exchange for killing Palestinian aspirations for independent statehood.

 

READ ALSO

UAE Sacrifices Palestinians for US and Israeli Arms

Trump’s Arms Sale to UAE Portends More Bloodshed in the Middle East

Israel Denying COVID Vaccine to Palestinians is Unjust and Inhumane