While there are conflicting reports as to the specific process, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu contacted the Trump White House roughly two weeks ago, and told them his official stance was to support a complete defunding of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the aid agency for Palestinian refugees. The US fully defunded UNRWA Friday.
This was a substantial change in Israel’s position, and indeed former US Ambassador Dan Shapiro said Monday he’s hearing Israeli officials insist they didn’t want UNRWA defunded, but rather for the US to push Israel-favored reforms on the agency.
That was Israel’s position for years, long insisting the UNRWA was “flawed” and needed to abandon the notion that the millions of Palestinian refugees would ever be allowed to return to their homes.
Netanyahu had claimed this position in the past too, but suggestions are that he unilaterally shifted to defunding recently, and circumvented the traditional channels to inform the White House of this change. This meant the defunding was a surprise for many in Israel, and so was the official Israeli statement applauding the move.
Netanyahu’s office has remained tight-lipped about specifics on this, but the suggestion that he did this without consulting the rest of the cabinet could be an embarrassment. Likewise, the revelation that the US defunding came almost immediately after a call from Netanyahu to do so will spin this as an Israel-driven policy.