Does Israel Intend to Destroy UNRWA?

The head of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, Philippe Lazzarini, has charged Israel with carrying out a “concentrated campaign, which is aimed at destroying UNRWA”. In an interview with the Swiss Tages-Anzeiger, he added that Israel apparently believes that “if the aid agency is abolished, the status of the Palestinian refugees will be resolved once and for all – and with it the right of return.”

In his interview, he said Israel’s government has applied pressure in multiple ways. “The Israeli parliament, for example, has introduced a bill to ban the UNRWA headquarters from Jerusalem. They no longer want to exempt UNRWA from VAT (value-added tax) in the future. Israeli authorities have ordered contractors at the port in Ashdod to stop handling certain food deliveries for UNRWA. And all these demands come from the government.” 

Lazzarini was in Dublin on Feb. 15 where he met with Irish Foreign Minister Michael Martin, and warned in a news conference that the cash crunch his agency is facing in March will become far worse in April, if it cannot secure fresh funding or convince donors to resume contributions they have suspended.

Foreign Minister Martin also expressed his concern: “At such a dangerous moment, it would be inconceivable to let UNRWA collapse. People need to wake up internationally about this.” The Irish government announced €20 million in support for the agency and urged countries that have suspended funding to “urgently rescind that decision” and resume and expand their support.

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