Israeli envoy to UN: UNRWA’s mandate must end

May 23, 2019 by Aryeh Savir - TPS
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The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on Wednesday held a special discussion on UNRWA, the United Nations agency that provides assistance solely to Arabs categorized as Palestinian refugees.

Danny Danon, Permanent Representative of Israel to the U.N., addresses the Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question. Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe.

The State Department in September 2018 announced that the US, the largest contributor to UNRWA with $350 million in annual aid, will make no additional contributions to the agency.

Explaining the dramatic move, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said that “the fundamental business model and fiscal practices that have marked UNRWA for years – tied to UNRWA’s endlessly and exponentially expanding community of entitled beneficiaries – is simply unsustainable and has been in crisis mode for many years. The United States will no longer commit further funding to this irredeemably flawed operation.”

Among the reasons Nauert cited in the statement for the US decision were “the failure of UNRWA and key members of the regional and international donor community to reform and reset the UNRWA way of doing business” and UNRWA’s “endlessly crisis-driven service provision model.”

UNRWA has since repeatedly stated that it is experiencing a severe cash flow crisis and may be forced to shut down its operations.

At the beginning of the discussion on Wednesday, Pierre Krähenbühl, the UNRWA Commissioner-General, requested an additional $1.2 billion for the agency’s 2019 budget.

Israel’s ambassador to the UN Danny Danon responded by saying that “UNRWA has been empowering the refugee problem for years, instead of trying to solve it while adopting a unilateral political position.”

He further charged that the organization’s schools “have been transformed into terror and incitement infrastructures, with textbooks distributed on the ground denying Israel’s existence, and underground tunnels dug by Hamas.”

“UNRWA failed to rehabilitate the Gaza Strip and succeeded only in inciting violence against the State of Israel. UNRWA’s mandate must come to an end,” added Danon.

Danon then turned to Krähenbühl and challenged him by stating that “UNRWA, like any organization, must have clear goals. What are those goals? How long will it take to reach them? And how much will it cost?”

Danon demanded that the Council members receive the representative’s answers within six months.

Jason Greenblatt, the US envoy to the Middle East stated that “it is time to face the reality that the UNRWA model has failed. Year after year, budget shortfalls threatened essential services to Palestinian mothers and children. And year after year, Palestinians in refugee camps were not given the opportunity to build any future; they were misled and used as political pawns.”

He called for a discussion about “planning the transition of UNRWA services to host governments and international or local non-governmental organizations.”

Greenblatt warned that “there will be no end to this suffering until all of us, together, say in public what I believe many of you are thinking. Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad are to blame for the suffering of the people of Gaza.”

The Palestinians have a unique definition for their status as “refugees” that has permitted them to inflate their number significantly. Their refugee status is passed on to succeeding generations and is unaffected by citizenship from other countries, in contrast to the definition of refugee status for every other refugee population in the world.

Israel has argued for years that the UN and the Palestinians are perpetuating the Palestinian refugee problem and oppose any attempt to seek a solution.

The Palestinians’ status as refugees ensures an endless flow of international aid. A “Palestinian refugee” receives quadruple the amount of aid that a Syrian, Iraqi or African refugee receives from the UN. A study shows that in 2016, UNRWA, which provides assistance solely to Palestinians, spent an average of $246 for each of the 5.3 million Palestinians it defines as refugees, while the UNHCR (the UN refugee agency)  spent only a quarter of that amount – $58 per refugee – on non-Palestinians.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly called to shut down UNRWA.

“UNRWA is an organization that perpetuates the Palestinian refugee problem. It also perpetuates the narrative of the right-of-return, as it were, in order to eliminate the state of Israel; therefore, UNRWA needs to pass from the world,” Netanyahu stated in January 2018.

Netanyahu has offered to route UNRWA’s to the UNHCR, with “clear criteria for supporting genuine refugees, not fictitious refugees as happens today under UNRWA.”


One Response to “Israeli envoy to UN: UNRWA’s mandate must end”
  1. Paul Winter says:

    Par for the course: eloquent words, logical arguments. The problem is lack of action.

    If Egypt had the right to kick out UN peacekeepers in 1967, Israel has the right to kick out UNWRA war wagers in 2019.

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