JERUSALEM, Israel – The Trump administration has moved to stop all funding for UNRWA, the UN agency that provides aid for Palestinian refugees. The decision goes to the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The decision to cut off all US funding to the agency has set off a chain reaction in the region.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat announced a plan to remove UNRWA from the city.
Protests popped up in Jordan and the Gaza Strip. Palestinian Authority leaders condemned the action, calling it a "path to destruction."
"What is the American administration doing? They are preempting, prejudging issues reserved for permanent status. They are undermining the moderate forces in Palestine and Israel," said PLO executive committee secretary general Saeb Erekat. "Those elements that want to achieve peace peacefully, based on a two-state solution, are being destroyed."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu applauded the decision.
"The United States has made a very important thing, stopping the funds for the agency perpetuating refugees, called UNRWA. The US is finally beginning to solve the problem."
Adi Schwartz, co-author of The War of Return, told CBN News, it's a "brave" decision.
Adi Schwartz, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff
"It's historic. It's very brave. I think for the first time in decades we are really touching the core issues and therefore I'm very hopeful," Schwartz said.
One core issue involved the "right of return," which goes back to 1949. It's the idea that the original Palestinian Arab refugees and their descendants should be allowed to return to Israel. That number now totals about five million.
"So, I think President Trump is touching on the core issue," Schwartz said. "The core issue is not how large Israel will be or how much territory it will cede. But the question is if Israel will stay. Israel obviously wants to stay, but the Palestinians unfortunately do not accept us yet."
Schwartz says the right of return means the end of Israel.
"The right of return means that an infinite number of Palestinians legally and by agreement enter and resettle in the State of Israel. So obviously the real meaning of the right of return is to undo the State of Israel – to kill the State of Israel and to make it into an Arab state."
Clifford May with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies says it's not going to happen. And US Ambassador the UN Nikki Haley agrees.
"But five million Arab Muslims, they're not coming back. Get the right of return off the table. It's not to be negotiated. It's not going to happen. Once it's accepted it's not going to happen you say, okay, how do we come to terms so we have a two-state solution? Do you agree with that?" May asked the US ambassador.
"I do agree with that and I think we also have to look at that in terms of what's happening in Syria, what's happening in Venezuela, what's happening in other parts of the world and how we treat refugees and how we're going to look at that going in the future. So I absolutely think we have to look at the right of return," Haley responded.
Schwartz says, "In my view, for the first time in decades that the American administration is telling the truth."
In the meantime, millions of Palestinians languish in limbo.
"You have this UNRWA agency, which is giving them refugee camps and giving them housing and health care and education. They have no incentive to create their own life. This is a very bad message to peace and of course to their lives as well. I think Palestinians cannot go on with their lives as long as UNRWA stays," Schwartz concluded.