Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for the dismantling of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine
Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which aids millions of Palestinian refugees across the region.
In public remarks to his cabinet at its weekly meeting on Sunday, Netanyahu accused UNRWA of anti-Israeli incitement, which, he said, was rife in institutions, including schools, run by the agency.
“It is time UNRWA be dismantled and merged with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees,” the Israeli premier said.
Netanyahu said UNRWA had perpetuated, rather than solved, the Palestinian refugee problem, adding that he had conveyed his message to Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations.
Referring to a meeting he held in the occupied Jerusalem al-Quds on Wednesday with Haley, Netanyahu said, “I told her it was time the United Nations re-examine UNRWA’s existence.”
A ‘fantasizing’ Bibi
Netanyahu’s comments did not go unnoticed in the besieged Gaza Strip, which has been blockaded by the Israeli regime for nearly ten years now.
Adnan Abu Hasna, a Gaza-based spokesman for UNRWA, said the Israeli prime minister was pursuing a “fantasy.”
A Palestinian drives a car packed with monthly food aid at an UNRWA distribution center in Gaza City on January 24, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Chris Gunness, UNRWA’s chief spokesman, said only the UN General Assembly, by a majority vote, could change the agency’s mandate.
“In December 2016, UNRWA’s mandate was extended for three years by the General Assembly by a large majority,” he wrote in an email to Reuters.
UNRWA was established by the UN General Assembly in 1949 after thousands of Palestinians fled or were expelled by Israeli forces from their homes in the 1948 war.
UNRWA is tasked with providing assistance and protection to a population of some five million registered Palestinian refugees.
According to UNRWA, over 1.5 million Palestinians, almost a third of the registered Palestinian refugees, live in 58 recognized refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.