The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) was founded almost 70 years ago to specifically support Palestinian refugees, while millions of other refugees of the world are supported by the U.N. High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). This despite the reality that so-called Palestinian refugees have spent decades away from the land inside Israel that they claim and have effectively settled in numerous locations and countries. That disparity in U.N. treatment was cited by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a reason to incorporate Palestinian refugees into the UNHCR and get rid of UNWRA altogether.
“I regret that UNRWA, to a large degree, by its very existence, perpetuates—and does not solve—the Palestinian refugee problem. Therefore, the time has come to disband UNRWA and integrate it into the UNHCR,” said Netanyahu on Sunday in comments released by his office. And perpetuating a refugee crisis for decades isn’t the only thing going wrong with UNRWA.
Netanyahu cited “considerable incitement against Israel” coming from UNRWA. Among other things, the group UN Watch published a 130-page report showing dozens of Facebook pages of UNRWA teachers and employees that either contain incitement to terrorism or anti-Semitism.
Netanyahu isn’t just arguing that UNRWA should be folded into the UNHCR, he’s making that case to the most powerful nation on earth. While United States Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley was in Israel, Netanyahu said he “told her that the time has come for the UN to reconsider the continued existence on UNRWA.”
A strong ally of Israel, Haley has repeatedly assailed the U.N. for unfair focus and criticism of the Jewish State. But even if Haley is convinced, undoing UNWRA will take more than American influence.
UNRWA spokesman Christopher Gunness said in a press statement released on the agency’s website that UNRWA “receives its mandate from the U.N. General Assembly; and only the U.N. General Assembly, by a majority vote, can change our mandate.”
The General Assembly is made up of the more than 100 recognized nations of the world and just six months ago extended UNRWA’s mandate for another three years by a “large majority” according to Gunness.
However, Israel has already been working on the automatically-opposed-to-Israel U.N. General Assembly majority. Netanyahu has repeatedly mentioned the opportunity to shift African votes to Israel’s side during his country’s focus on reaching out to nations in that continent.
In 2016, Netanyahu said this: “The automatic U.N. majority is based, first and foremost, on the African bloc. It is only a question of time before we break up this majority and move it from one side to the other; this is a very great change in the international status of Israel.”
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, June 12, 2017)