Following the announcement that the US was cutting off funding for UNRWA, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat announced that he planned to expel UNRWA from Jerusalem.
As a reminder, there is one Palestinian refugee camp located within Jerusalem’s municipal borders, the Shuafat Refugee camp (download profile here). Despite being part of Jerusalem, and despite the fact that official residents of the camp are technically legal residents of Jerusalem, from 1967 through the present day, the Jerusalem Municipality has never provided any services in the camp. At the same time, due to its location, the PA is forbidden by Israel from providing any services in the camp. The situation inside the camp has become even more dire over the past decade, after Israel gerrymandered the separation barrier to physically cut off the camp and its residents from the city.
In this context, there are no obvious practical implications to Barkat’s declaration, as he neither has the authority to expel UNRWA operations from the camp, nor does he offer any idea for what would happen to the residents if he were able to do so. Either of the options would be a non-starter for Barkat and his fellow travelers: if UNRWA is expelled from the Shuafat refugee camp, either Israel will have to finally take responsibility for the residents and legitimize them as Jerusalem residents (an option that for them is both demographically and financially unpalatable), or it would have to allow the PA to come in and take over, in effect ceding part of Jerusalem to the Palestinians (an option that is politically untenable at this time).
In this context, Barkat’s statement should be understood as grandstanding for the sake of his personal political aspirations at the national level, rather than a threat or even plan to take concrete action at this time.