Last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stunned many by declaring that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) should be dismantled.
Speaking at a weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu charged that “in various UNRWA institutions, there is a lot of incitement against Israel, and therefore the existence of UNRWA — and unfortunately its work from time to time — perpetuates the Palestinian refugee problem rather than solves it. … Therefore, the time has come to dismantle UNRWA and merge its components with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees [UNHCR].”
This long overdue step has long been rejected by the Israeli establishment. Up until now, Jerusalem has prevented attempts to change UNRWA’s mandate, or close it down, because the Israeli establishment perceived the agency as a stabilizing force. Jerusalem focused instead on ending anti-Israeli incitement in UNRWA’s education system, and on decrying its collaboration with Hamas. That collaboration implied an international imprimatur on egregious Hamas behavior.
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