The UN Branch That’s Sabotaging Peace

The author is a PhD historian, writer and journalist living in Israel.


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In a bold move, Israel’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Danny Ayalon, appealed to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) meeting in Geneva this week to end the UN’s decades-old support for the UN Relief Works Agency (UNRWA).

A video presenting Israel’s new position on the issue assumes PM Netanyahu’s approval.

Despite widespread criticism of UNRWA, however, it’s doubtful that efforts to reform the agency or eliminate it will be successful.

Ironically, one of the main obstacles is the Israeli government — especially the Ministry of Defense and some in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs — which continue to support it.

Moreover, the US State Department opposes any changes. All fear an explosion of violence that would result. Rather than deal with the issue creatively and realistically, most would rather avoid it, pass it on and hope it will go away, thus compounding the problem.

And as long as UNRWA exists the issue of Palestinian refugees cannot be resolved and will continue to sabotage efforts towards peace.

UNRWA’s population has grown from an initial half-million or so to over 5 million, and growing daily, along with its billion dollar budget. UNRWA-supported schools teach hatred of Jews and Israel, memorialize “The Nakba” (catastrophe, the establishment of the State of Israel), and advocate “the Palestinian right of return” – the most contentious and passionate issue in negotiations.

Although it might be possible to deal with UNRWA facilities located in Judea, Samaria and Gaza (“the West Bank”) separately from those in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan, a comprehensive plan appears impossible, leaving the issue to fester.

Flooding Israel with millions of hostile Arabs dedicated to Israel’s demise would be suicidal. Palestinian leaders and host countries refuse to compromise, assisted by UNRWA which has a vested interest.

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