To solve the Palestinian problem, “UNRWA should be shut down,” Netanyahu said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called to shut down the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which is responsible for funneling aid to so-called Palestinian refugees, saying that it is perpetuating the Palestinian problem.
Speaking at at the beginning of the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, Netanyahu said that he completely agrees with President Donald Trump’s “sharp criticism of UNRWA” and his decision to cut the US funding to the body.
“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
“This is an agency that was established 70 years ago, only for Palestinian refugees, at a time when the UNHCR (the UN refugee agency) deals with global refugee problems. Of course this creates a situation in which there are great-grandchildren of refugees, who are not refugees but who are cared for by UNRWA, and another 70 years will pass and those great-grandchildren will have great-grandchildren and therefore, this absurdity needs to stop,” the Israeli premier added.
Netanyahu offered a “proposal: UNRWA support funds need to be gradually shifted to the UNHCR, with clear criteria for supporting genuine refugees, not fictitious refugees as happens today under UNRWA.”
“I have brought this position to the attention of the US. This is how to rid the world of UNRWA and deal with genuine refugee problems, to the extent that such remain,” he concluded.
US Cuts UNRWA Funding
Netanyahu’s remarks came after the media reported over the weekend that the US froze a $125 million grant to the UNRWA.
For now, the money has been frozen while the US reassesses the situation.
US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley announced earlier in the week that the Trump administration will halt aid to the Palestinians unless they agree to come to the negotiating table and participate in peace talks with the Israelis.
Trump “doesn’t want to give any additional funding until the Palestinians agree to come back to the negotiating table,” Haley stated on Tuesday.
On that same day, Trump tweeted, “We pay the Palestinians HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect…with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?”
Incitement to terror against Israel in UNRWA schools along with the documented use of its facilities as storage spaces for Hamas rockets and weapons have made the agency the target of vociferous criticism by Israeli officials.
Last month, the UN’s Administrative and Budgetary Committee rejected a request to increase funding for UNRWA for 2018-2019.
Following diplomatic efforts by the Israeli delegation to the UN, the budgetary committee declined the Palestinians’ requests.
“It is inconceivable for the UN budget and the funds of countries intended for humanitarian assistance and development to be diverted toward incitement and be turned into a political battering ram,” said Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon.
Palestinian Refugees’ Unique Status and Legacy
The Palestinians have a unique definition for their status as refugees.The number of Palestinian refugees has been vastly inflated by the fact that 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.
For instance, the vast majority of the “refugees” in Jordan, more than two million, are citizens of Jordan who identify as Palestinian.
Israel has argued for years that the UN and the Palestinians are working to perpetuate the Palestinian refugee problem and oppose any attempt to seek a solution.
Furthermore, the Palestinians’ status as refugees ensures an endless flow of international aid and has other financial ramifications.
A so-called Palestinian refugee receives quadruple the amount of aid that a Syrian, Iraqi or African refugee receives from the United Nations.
A study released in September 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 spent only a quarter of that, $58 per refugee, on non-Palestinians.