In the wake of a Senate amendment requiring the United States to quantify how many Palestinians receiving U.S. aid were displaced after the Israeli War of Independence and how many are only descendants of such refugees, a State Department official told The Cable that the U.S. considers the descendants to be actual refugees.
U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk’s amendment, which unanimously passed the Senate Appropriations Committee May 24, has been strongly opposed by the State Department. Deputy Secretary of State Tom Nides, in a letter to U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), said Kirk’s amendment “would be viewed around the world as the United States acting to prejudge and determine the outcome of this sensitive issue.”
Nides affirmed the State Department’s view on the number of Palestinian refugees by emphasizing in his letter that the UN and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) “provides essential services for approximately 5 million refugees,” The Cable reported.
Middle East Forum founder Daniel Pipes recently noted in an op-ed for Israel Hayom that only 1 percent of the refugees served by UNRWA fit the agency’s definition of “people whose normal place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948, who lost both their homes and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict.” The other 99 percent are descendants of refugees.