Trump and Obama
Trump and ObamaReuters

Michael Oren, a former Israeli ambassador to the US now serving as Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister`s Office, praised President Donald Trump’s recent decision to withhold some $65 million in funding for a United Nations agency which supports self-described ‘Palestinian refugees’, effectively cutting the amount of US money to the agency in half.

Earlier this month, the US froze a $125 million grant to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) – representing one-third of all US aid given to the agency every year.

On Tuesday, a State Department official said that the US had released $60 million to UNRWA, but was withholding the other $65 million, adding that the a “fundamental re-examination” of US aid to UNRWA was needed.

"There is a need to undertake a fundamental re-examination of UNRWA, both in the way it operates and the way it is funded," the official said.

On Wednesday, Oren, a former Israeli ambassador to the US, now an MK from the Kulanu party and the Deputy Ministry of the Prime Minister’s Office, spoke with Arutz Sheva about President Trump’s decision and the United Nation’s reaction.

While UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed “concern” Tuesday about the American cuts to UNRWA, Oren called Trump’s move “excellent”.

“He [Guterres] is ‘very concerned – well, let him be concerned,” Oren told Arutz Sheva.

“President Trump’s decision to cut funding for UNRWA is an excellent decision, both for us and for the whole Middle East. [UNRWA] is a corrupt and bloated organization that perpetuates a refugee problem that doesn’t exist.”

“According to their calculations, there are some five million [Palestinian Arab] refugees in the Middle East. Bear in mind that almost none of the ‘refugees’ from 1948 are still alive. So how did they get to five million? Because in the case of UNRWA - and only in the case of UNRWA - refugee status is passed down from parents to their children and then their grandchildren. That’s outrageous.”

“Every ‘Palestinian refugee’ receives three times the amount of funding given to other refugees [aided by the UN] around the world – including refugees from Syria. Even when the ‘Palestinian refugees’ are granted citizenship, they maintain their status as refugees.”

Oren argued that the sui generis recognition of refugee status for the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of refugees implies that the only solution would be a “right of return” for the five million claiming refugee status – in effect, the end of Israel as a Jewish state.

“According to UNRWA, the solution to the problem is to wipe out the State of Israel – the [right] of return. In [UNRWA] schools they don’t teach about peace or a two-state solution – they teach about a ‘return’, which would mean the end of the State of Israel.”

“No Palestinian or Palestinian leader would be satisfied with a [partial] right of return,” or other compromise arrangement, continued Oren.

“Olmert offered that to Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas], but [Abbas] rejected it,” said Oren, referring to a 2008 offer by then-Premier Ehud Olmert to accept the establishment of a Palestinian state and to grant a “right of return” to 5,000 Palestinian Arabs.

“They want to bring in millions, which would mean the end of the Jewish state.”

Oren argued that the shift in US policy vis-à-vis UNRWA reflects the fundamentally different perspectives of presidents Trump and Obama with regards to the Middle East.

“According to Obama’s worldview, Israel was the problem in the Middle East, and Iran was the solution. Trump sees things exactly reversed. In Trump’s view, Israel is the solution, and Iran is the problem. Remember that Trump, unlike his predecessors, is a businessman, and in that sense he’s worried about being ripped off. He sees UNRWA taking billions of dollars in American tax dollars over the years, and using that money to keep the [Israel-Arab] conflict going, to create new refugees, and to sow the seeds of hatred among generations of Palestinians.”

The United States is currently the largest single donor to UNRWA, providing approximately a fourth of the organization's budget.

For years, UNRWA has been a target for criticism in light of Hamas's activity in its educational institutions and the use of its facilities by Palestinian Arab terrorist organizations in Gaza.

UNRWA was documented storing Hamas rockets and weapons "designed to kill Israeli citizens" in its schools, a fact which the UNRWA chief admitted himself.

In addition, the organization has actively taken part in inciting anti-Semitic violence.

It has perpetuated the status of Palestinian "refugees" for generations instead of working towards their absorption in host countries, continuing to call residents of camps located in the Palestinian Authority refugees. Audits have shown that the number of "refugees" in UNRWA lists is highly inflated.