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Break the link between refugee support and Hamas

JUNE 29, 2017 – JERUSALEM – Virtually every media outlet took the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees’ condemnation of the Hamas tunnels found under an UNRWA school at its word. Yet no media outlet reminded the world that the UNRWA teachers union and the UNRWA workers union of Gaza have been under the tight control of Hamas since 1999, without a word of disapproval from UNRWA.

The statement by the Prime Minister of Israel that UNRWA should be “dismantled” indicates that the Israeli government holds UNRWA responsible for the existence of Hamas terror tunnels.

The timing of this discovery is important, occurring just before Hamas will conduct its annual summer military training camp to train upwards of 50,000 UNRWA students, ages 9-15, in the use of live weaponry.

However, it is unfortunately not within Israel’s power to “dismantle” UNRWA.

UNRWA operates under the mandate of the United Nations General Assembly, and only its 193 member states can “dismantle” UNRWA.

If Israeli and Western democratic nations were to cut funds to UNRWA, two scenarios would likely occur:

• The radical Islamic state of Qatar, which has established a presence in Gaza and in Judea/Samaria, would likely step in to replace any income lost from Western cuts to UNRWA.

• Saudi Arabia, which recently increased its funding of UNRWA to become the number three donor, would likely give even more.

If Qatar and Saudi Arabia became the largest donors to UNRWA, no leverage could be brought against UNRWA to cease connections with Hamas or other terror groups.

What, then, can the Israeli government do to ameliorate UNRWA?

Jerusalem could demand that UNRWA donors condition funds on reforms of UNRWA in six areas:

• Ask for an audit of donor funds given to UNRWA. This would address widespread documented reports of wasted resources, duplicity of services, and the undesired flow of cash to Gaza-based terror groups, which have gained control over UNRWA operations there for the past 18 years.

• Introduce UN Refugee Agency standards to UNRWA to advance the resettlement of Arab refugees after 68 years of their relegation to refugee camp existence.  Current UNRWA policy is that any refugee resettlement would interfere with the “right of return” to Arab villages that existed before 1948.

• Cancel the UNRWA school curriculum, based on Jihad, martyrdom, and the “right of return” by force of arms.

• Cease paramilitary training in all UNRWA schools.  Should UNRWA, as a UN agency, not demonstrate a renewed commitment to UN principles to “peace education?”

• Insist that UNRWA dismiss employees affiliated with Hamas, in accordance with laws on the books in western nations that forbid aid to any agency that employs members of a terrorist organization.

• Since UNRWA has recently hired a “youth ambassador” – Mohammad Assaf – to travel the world and encourage insurrection and violence, would this not be the appropriate time to demand that UNRWA cancel  its contract with a promoter of war?

Now that the Israeli government has finally come to the conclusion that UNRWA is an impediment to peace, the government of Israel should act to curb UNRWA policy and reform UNRWA, which is within the scope of possibility, and not to dismantle UNRWA, which is not possible.

David Bedein is the director of Israel Resource News Agency and also administers the Center for Near East Policy Research. He is also the author of “Roadblock to Peace – How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict: UNRWA Policies Reconsidered” and “The Genesis of the Palestinian Authority.” His website is www.israelbehindthenews.com.

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