Monday 28 December 2020 - 08:19

Israel, UAE Working Together to Eliminate UNRWA: Report

Story Code : 906663
Israel, UAE Working Together to Eliminate UNRWA: Report
According to the report carried by French newspaper Le Monde, this process has been underway since Israel and the UAE announced normalization in August.

According to the report, Emirati officials are weighing up a plan to gradually eliminate UNRWA, without making it conditional on a resolution of the refugee issue. This is despite the UAE having been a major funder of UNRWA in 2018 and 2019, along with Qatar and Saudi Arabia, to offset US President Donald Trump's halting of funds to the agency, which had brought it to the verge of bankruptcy.

The US, historically UNRWA's largest single donor, had cut its contributions from $360m to $60m in 2018 and then down further to zero for 2019.

At the time, Pierre Krahenbuhl, then UNRWA's commissioner-general, had condemned the US withdrawal of funds.

"At stake is the dignity and human security of millions of Palestine refugees, in need of emergency food assistance and other support in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank and Gaza Strip," Krahenbuhl had said in a statement.

Addressing the plans by Israel and the UAE to eliminate UNRWA, Le Monde journalist Benjamin Barthe tweeted out part of the report, which read, "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."

UNRWA was established 70 years ago to supply aid to Palestinian refugees and its mandate is renewed every three years.

Trump's administration, along with Israel, accuses UNRWA of perpetuating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In October this year, Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, claimed that textbooks used by schools run by UNRWA contained inciteful content, demanding that the UN “end the incitement and anti-Semitism in UNRWA schools and publicly pledge to eliminate any terrorist infrastructure in its buildings”.

UNRWA disputes such accusations and says that the services it provides would otherwise not be available to Palestinians.

The agency was set up in the years after more than 700,000 Palestinians had been expelled or fled their lands during the 1948 war surrounding the creation of Israel. It provides schooling and medical services to millions of impoverished refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, as well as the Palestinian territories.

While the main UN agency dealing with refugees - UNHCR - concentrates on their voluntary repatriation or local integration and resettlement, UNRWA maintains millions of people as refugees in the long term, expanding the numbers year after year.