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I'ts Time to Dissolve UNRWA

The dissolution of UNRWA is aligned with the goals of the war to dismantle Hamas rule, and it is a necessary step in the de-radicalization process of the Gaza Strip. For years Israel did not deal with deep-rooted problems that perpetuated the conflict, including not doing enough to dismantle the mechanisms that sustain the conflict and encourage incitement. UNRWA is the ultimate example.

The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, is responsible for all refugees worldwide, except for the Palestinian refugees, for whom a special agency was created - the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees. UNRWA's definition of 'refugee' creates a unique situation: only in the Palestinian case, a refugee status is inherited. Even refugees who obtained citizenship in their country of residence are still included in the tally of Palestinian refugees. Under this distorted definition, there are five million Palestinian refugees today, while after the 1948 War, there were only slightly over 700,000.

In a position paper released this week (see here), Atchalta pointed to UNRWA as an example of a key coercive mechanism that perpetuates the conflict and encourages Palestinian intractability. The absurdity is that there are Palestinian refugees even under Palestinian rule: under Hamas rule in Gaza, and under the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.


During the war, the deep connection between UNRWA and Hamas is also revealed. In recordings of conversations with Gazans released today by the IDF, the claim was heard that all UNRWA personnel are Hamas personnel. Tunnels and shafts were found inside UNRWA facilities, which the agency's management could not have been unaware of.

Calls to dismantle UNRWA are not new. For example, back in 2005 I was a partner in writing a document for the Reut Institute that saw the opportunity to thin out the refugee problem by dismantling UNRWA (see here), and to remove one of the most complex issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While these calls are not new, an opportunity has been created to promote it by a principled decision to transfer UNRWA's powers and responsibilities to a revitalized Palestinian Authority (see here). This should be one of the goals derived from the war's objectives.

Recommended Book on this issue: Adi Schwartz and Einat Wilf, The War of Return: How Western Indulgence of the Palestinian Dream Has Obstructed the Path to Peace, 2020, click here


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