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Although many claim that Arabs who became refugees were and are guaranteed the “right of return,” there is no such “right.” UNGA Resolution 194 refers to all refugees, Jews and Arabs, pending peace agreements, and suggests other alternatives, like resettlement and compensation.
Nor would the establishment of another Arab Palestinian state resolve this issue, since most potential Arab immigrants do not want to relocate and no infrastructure exists that could accommodate such a massive influx. UNRWA’s political goals, therefore, represent a strategic threat to Israel and contribute to instability in Arab states as well.
Donor countries, primarily the US, who might want to shift funding into productive solutions are hindered by Israel’s support for UNRWA. Canada now directs funds to specific projects rather than UNRWA’s general funds, but this leaves the elephant in the room. UNRWA’s existence makes any compromise impossible. Why, then, does Israel support it?
According to Robbie Sabel, former senior legal advisor to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs:
No doubt UNWRA plays a nefarious role since it helps perpetuate the myth that the Arab refugees and their descendants can and will return to Israel. Nevertheless Israel has never acted to dismantle UNWRA because we were apprehensive that the financial burden of supporting the refugees would fall on Israel. UNWRA provides far more financial support for its refugees than UNHCR provides the refugees under its auspices.
Another senior advisor warned that Israel is afraid to oppose UNRWA (or any UN-sponsored agency) lest it have a negative impact on Israel’s attempts to play a more significant role in UN agencies and other bilateral relations.
Since all UNRWA-sponsored 59 towns and villages (with one exception) are either in PA-administered territory, Lebanon, Syria or Jordan, why would Israel be financially responsible? What entitles UNRWA’s clients to more than those assisted by UNHCR? In fact, withdrawing support for UNRWA would allow for more creative and helpful alternatives, enhance Israel’s international position and eliminate one of “the greatest obstacles to peace in the Middle East.
Stepping aside, Israel can encourage donor countries to transfer UNRWA’s activities to the UNHCR and enable “refugees” to move on and build constructive, productive lives.
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