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Report: Israel, UAE team up to end UNRWA

Joint effort in UN a sign of rapidly advancing strategic relations between Israel and Gulf

An aid distribution center run by United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip Sept. 1, 2018. (Photo: REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)

Israel and the United Arab Emirates have initiated a joint diplomatic initiative to end the mandate for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), according to the French newspaper Le Monde.

The UAE, along with Saudi Arabia and other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, have made large financial contributions to UNRWA in recent years following a decision by the Trump Administration to end U.S. funding due to UNRWA’s failures, including documented cases of abuse of power and incompetence by many of its most senior members. 

The reports of this corruption and incompetence in late 2019 also led Holland, Switzerland and New Zealand to withdraw their funding from UNRWA. But according to the report, the UAE is examining ways to gradually reduce its own funding while urging other donors to do the same.

“In doing so, Abu Dhabi would be rallying to a long-standing demand from Israel, which insists that the agency is obstructing peace by nurturing refugees in the dream of returning to the lands from which their parents were driven in 1948,” Le Monde said.

The UN has two separate agencies which manage affairs related to refugees: the UN High Commission on Refugees, which works around the world to care for refugees and resettle them in new countries, and the UNRWA, which deals exclusively with Palestinian refugees from the 1948 and 1967 wars.

Critics charge the UNRWA has done nothing to help these refugees resettle in any other country, but rather it has worked tirelessly for decades to prevent that from happening, preferring to allow the Palestinians refugees to believe that they will someday “return” to modern-day Israel.

Additionally, Palestinians who are born in other countries, even those who have never visited Israel, are still given the designation of “refugee” by the UNRWA, even if they have citizenship in another country. No other people group in the world is given the opportunity to inherit “refugee” status by the UN.

Quiet and usually off the record statements by a growing number of officials in Arab and Muslim countries around the world have acknowledged that the situation is legally untenable and that it’s time to look at different options for addressing these issues, even as most Western governments continue to insist that UNRWA is sacrosanct.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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