By Abdel Raouf Arnaout
JERUSALEM (AA) – At a scheduled conference in Bahrain next month, U.S. officials will call for ending the activities of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), an Israeli daily reported Monday.
Israel Today, which is known to be close to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, reported that U.S. officials were expected to propose “that UNRWA's education and food distribution activities be replaced by development programs implemented by international NGOs but run by the [Ramallah-based] Palestinian Authority”.
According to the newspaper, U.S. administration officials will also propose at the meeting that refugee camps in the West Bank be converted into permanent Palestinian towns and cities.
UNRWA operates 19 refugee camps in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where the number of registered refugees currently stands at more than 828,000.
The agency also runs dozens of refugee camps in the Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.
The Palestinian leadership accuses the U.S. administration, which halted all funding to UNRWA last year, of seeking to undermine the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in historical Palestine.
Slated for June 25 and 26, the Manama meeting will reportedly be chaired by Jared Kushner, U.S. President Donald Trump's senior adviser (and son-in-law), and Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s Middle East envoy.
The meeting is expected to be attended by a host of finance officials and business leaders from several countries.
According to the White House, the meeting is aimed at attracting investment to the region — especially to the West Bank and Gaza Strip — within the context of Trump’s so-called “Deal of the Century”, a backchannel Palestine-Israel peace plan.
The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), for its part, says it was never consulted about the planned meeting and has stated its refusal to take part in the event.
Ever since Trump’s controversial decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in late 2017, the Palestinian leadership has rejected all U.S. peacemaking efforts.