Trump is Making the Gaza Crisis Even Worse

August 13, 2018

Last week, we were once again faced with the frightening prospect of a major new escalation in the ongoing clashes between Israel and Hamas.

In the wake of an apparent misunderstanding between the IDF and Hamas forces near the fence, Hamas indiscriminately fired over 200 rockets into southern Israel, terrorizing Israeli civilians and wounding at least 11 people. In response, Israel engaged in significant airstrikes, in which three Palestinians were killed.

While a temporary ceasefire was reached before the fighting became worse, the threat of another major war is still very real. Gaza’s people continue to suffer through a devastating humanitarian crisis, while Israelis still face the threat of rockets and arson kites.

In such a volatile situation, small incidents or misunderstandings are all too likely to lead to disastrous escalations. We’ve seen this cycle of violence play out again and again — without any resolution of the underlying issues that feed it.

Israel’s security establishment has made it clear: There is no long-term military solution to this crisis. Instead of stumbling unintentionally into more violence, we need to see proactive, intentional leadership to bring about positive change.

Only meaningful diplomacy and a negotiated agreement, including urgent humanitarian relief for Gaza, can curtail the violence and open up a path to a better future. And according to multiple reports, Egyptian leaders are working as mediators between Hamas and the Israeli government in an attempt to achieve such a lasting arrangement.

While we watch closely to see if these efforts succeed, we should also feel anger and frustration at the way our own government continues to do nothing to help improve the situation — and, in fact, has deliberately made it worse.

Instead of acting as a good-faith mediator to help stabilize the region and secure Israel’s future, Trump, Kushner and David Friedman are eagerly empowering the Israeli right

By slashing major funding for the Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA and for USAID-supported humanitarian programs that aid Palestinian civilians, the Trump administration has shown a cruel and reckless disregard for millions of civilians who can only rarely access electricity, drinkable water and medicine.

Ignoring the recommendations of the Pentagon, US intelligence and the IDF, Jared Kushner and co. have taken this dangerous step in order to, in their own words, “disrupt” UNRWA. Instead of helping refugees, the administration wants to destroy the organization that takes care of them, in the absurd hope that this will somehow make the “Palestinian refugee problem” go away.

According to a new Israeli report, even Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government has now quietly urged Trump’s team not to continue with the UNRWA cuts — fearing that they could spark greater violence.

With actions like this, the administration continues to show contempt for the Palestinian people — and disinterest in resolving the core issues of the conflict through a two-state solution. As with the decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, the attack on UNRWA seems designed to marginalize the Palestinians. It aims to force them to ultimately reject — and take the blame for the failure of — any “peace proposals” put forward by the US.

Instead of acting as a good-faith mediator to help stabilize the region and secure Israel’s future, Trump, Kushner and David Friedman are eagerly empowering the Israeli right — echoing their talking points, while endangering Israelis and Palestinians alike.

The problems of the Middle East are complex and difficult, and the US certainly can’t solve them all on its own. But without American leadership and diplomacy in pursuit of peace, dangerous situations go from bad to worse — and people on the ground suffer the consequences.

That’s why J Street is working hard to push back on this administration’s actions and fight for a different vision of US leadership.

It’s why we’ve supported important congressional letters, signed by 13 senators and 70 representatives, calling on the administration to restore funding to UNRWA and to take other urgent steps to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza — steps that include encouraging our Israeli and Egyptian allies to ease the blockade.

It’s why, in the lead-up to November’s vital election, we’re doing all we can to help elect a new Congress that will promote diplomacy and act as a check on the Trump administration’s dangerous foreign policy agenda.

In times like these, we can sometimes feel powerless to make a difference. But by doing our part to hold the Trump administration accountable for its actions, and to fight for key changes in our politics and policy here at home, we can work towards a better future not just for Americans, but for Israelis and Palestinians as well.

Myths and Facts about UNRWA

The conversation about UNRWA and Palestinian refugees is often filled with misconceptions. Here is a helpful explainer of myths and facts about the organization and its practices.

Recent Blog Posts