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Israel urges countries to stop funding UNRWA

Gazan's gather outside the UN offices in Gaza to protest US cuts to UNRWA's funding, on January 28, 2018 [Mohammad Asad / Middle East Monitor]
Gazan's gather outside the UN offices in Gaza to protest US cuts to UNRWA's funding, on 28 January 2018 [Mohammad Asad / Middle East Monitor]

The UN Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) is a “problem”,  Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely told 50 foreign ambassadors and diplomats yesterday, calling on them to ask their governments to stop funding the organisation, Israel Hayom reported on Wednesday.

“Israel’s policy is to close the UNRWA,” Hotovely told the foreign representatives in Israel, stating that its existence is “a problem, not the solution”.

She added that the US has demanded that the refugee agency undergo “fundamental re-examination.”

“Over the years, we have seen how instead of settling the original refugees, UNRWA has acted to increase the number of refugees, as it did when it automatically transferred refugee status from generation to generation,” Hotovely said.

READ: Kuwait donates $50m to UNRWA

“There is no parallel for this in the world, and it only perpetuates the [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict,” she said and asked: “After 70 years, why are there still Palestinian refugees, when it is clear to all that fewer than 100,000 Palestinians from the time of the [1948] War of Independence [Nakba] are still alive?”

“The Jordanian model, in which Jordan de facto naturalised the refugees, is also the right model for Syria and Lebanon,” she said.

“One must differentiate between East Jerusalem, in which there is Israeli control, and Palestinian Authority (PA) territory. There is no justification for running two parallel education systems for the same people. The responsibility for education in ‘Area A’ is that of the PA and not UNRWA,” she added.

US decision to cut UNRWA funding – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

“In contrast, the situation in Gaza is complex, and UN organisations such as the UNDP [UN Development Program],which use an alternative pipeline to transfer humanitarian aid, should be found. There is no justification for maintaining millions of alleged refugees, fake refugees,” she said.

The deputy Israeli foreign minister told the foreign ambassadors and diplomats that her statements were coordinated with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is currently the acting foreign minister.

READ: UNRWA classrooms to stay open despite funding crisis, agency reports

Established in 1949, UNRWA provides critical aid to Palestinian refugees in the blockaded Gaza Strip, the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

Earlier this year, the US State Department said Washington would “no longer commit funding” to the UNRWA.

The US had been UNRWA’s largest contributor by far, providing it with $350 million annually — roughly a quarter of the agency’s overall budget.

This came a month reports emerged of a secret American report stated that there are only 40,000 Palestinian refugees, noting they are the Palestinians who left their home land in 1948 and remain alive today and not their descendants.

US President Donald Trump’s senior advisor and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is reported to have tried to pressure Jordan to strip more than two million Palestinians of refugee status in a move that aims to end the work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).

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