newsU.S.-Israel Relations

US lawmakers review plan linking Gaza refugee resettlement to American aid to Arab countries

The proposal calls on Washington to condition aid to Egypt, Iraq, Yemen and Turkey on those countries accepting a certain number of refugees.

Palestinian civilians wait to collect water in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, Oct. 28, 2023. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.
Palestinian civilians wait to collect water in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, Oct. 28, 2023. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.

A new initiative submitted to the U.S. Congress calls for conditioning American aid to Arab countries on their willingness to receive refugees from Gaza. 

The proposal was shown to key figures in the House and Senate from both parties. Longtime lawmaker Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) has even expressed open support for it while others who were privy to the details of the text have so far kept a low profile, saying that publicly coming out in favor of the program could derail it. 

“Israel is trying to keep civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip as low as possible, but Hamas is not allowing the refugees to leave and Egypt is unwilling to open its borders,” the plan’s authors write in the opening paragraph.

They later go on to explain that “the only moral solution is to ensure that Egypt opens its borders and allows for the refugees to flee from the tyrant control of Hamas. The U.S. Government provides Egypt with approximately $1.3 billion in foreign aid, and these funds can be allocated to the refugees from Gaza who will be allowed into Egypt.”

The proposed refugee figures that would be accepted by Arab countries under the plan

They continue: “The neighboring borders have been closed for too long, but it is now clear that in order to free the Gazan population from the tyrannical oppression of Hamas and to allow them to live free of war and bloodshed, Israel must encourage the international community to find the correct, moral and humane avenues for the relocation of the Gazan population.”

The plan notes that Egypt should not shoulder the entire burden, but other regional countries should chip in. “Iraq and Yemen receive an approximate $1 billion in U.S. foreign aid, and Turkey receives more than $150 million. Each of these countries receive enough foreign aid and have a large enough population to be able to accept refugees adding up to less than 1% of their population,” the plan’s authors stress. 

The plan also calls on the U.S. to condition foreign aid to Egypt, Iraq, Yemen and Turkey on those countries accepting a certain number of refugees.  

The plan even goes so far as to envision how many Gazan residents each of these countries will receive: One million in Egypt (constituting 0.9% of the population there), half a million for Turkey (0.6% of the population in Turkey), 250,000 for Iraq (0.6% of the Iraqi population), and another 250,000 for Yemen (0.75% of the overall population there currently). 

Each of these countries receives generous financial aid from the U.S. and under the plan, it should continue to be handed out only under the condition that they accept Gazans. It should be noted that the Biden administration opposes the forced removal of Gaza residents from the Strip but has not ruled out voluntary migration.

“This would not be the first time other countries accepted refugees,” the plan’s text says. “According to the UNHCR database, since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, for example, over 6 million Ukrainians have fled the country. Poland has accepted nearly 1.2 million Ukrainian refugees, Germany received almost 1 million and the Czech Republic close to half a million.” 

It continues: “Likewise, since 2011 and the ongoing Syrian civil war, 6.7 million Syrians have fled Syria to be dispersed throughout the surrounding countries. 3.2 million Syrian refugees relocated to Turkey, 789,000 found refuge in Lebanon, 653,000 in Jordan, and 150,000 in Egypt while other Middle Eastern and European countries have accepted hundreds of thousands.”

The document’s authors note that UNRWA is a problematic factor perpetuating the conflict, unlike the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), which resettles refugees worldwide. “UNRWA is renewed by a UN mandate every three years and receives funding predominantly from the United States, Canada, Britain, and the European Union, all of whom are strong supporters of Israel.” 

They blame the agency for “propagating the refugee narrative” and “inhibiting the rehabilitation of Palestinian refugees for over 70 years and has in fact deepened the refugee crisis.” Therefore, they claim, “it must be shut down.”

Previously published by Israel Hayom.

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