The Trump Administration has changed course in various ways from its predecessor when it comes to relations with Israel. Among other things, the current American government has moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and reduced aid to the Palestinians. In addition, the administration is on the verge of unveiling the so-called Deal of the Century, a new proposal for an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.
Pitilessly, the past quarter century’s events have dismissed the hopes for peace with the Arabs that Israeli diplomats, often accompanied by U.S. counterparts, detailed to the world in 1993 as they explained the concessions they had finalized in Oslo. Previously, they had treated Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization as a terrorist organization to be marginalized if not destroyed. The list of its outrages, from bombing school buses and airports to murdering Olympic athletes, spoke for itself. In 1982, the U.S. saved the PLO from imminent destruction by an Israeli and Lebanese alliance, and sustained it in supervised exile in Tunisia.
In his inimitable way, Donald Trump has gored yet another sacred cow—this one in the Levant. First, consider this. For nearly seventy years, the United States was the principal source of funds for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)—an outfit which not only provided (and still provides) support for Palestinians who fled from their homes in 1948 and found, after the first Arab-Israeli War, that they could not return, but which also provides for those of their patrilineal descendants who still reside in the refugee camps situated in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem.