By SARAH CHEMLA DECEMBER 27, 2020
Israel and the United Arab Emirates are working together to eliminate the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) without solving the issue of Palestinian refugees, the French newspaper Le Monde has reported.
The report alleged that this has been underway since Israel and the UAE announced normalization between them in August.
According to the report, Emirati officials are considering an action plan intended to gradually eliminate UNRWA, without making this development conditional on a resolution of the refugee problem. This is despite the UAE having been a major source of funding to UNRWA in 2018 and 2019, along with Qatar and Saudi Arabia, to offset US President Donald Trump’s halting of funds to the agency, which brought it to the brink of bankruptcy.
“In doing so, Abu Dhabi would be rallying to a long-standing demand from Israel, which insists that the agency is obstructing peace by nurturing refugees in the dream of returning to the lands from which their parents were driven in 1948,” a tweet of a portion of the report said.
UNRWA was established 70 years ago to supply aid to Palestinian refugees, and its mandate is renewed every three years.
Last year in November, the UN General Assembly approved the extension of UNRWA’s mandate for three more years, only a week after its commissioner-general Pierre Krahenbuhl resigned over a UN ethics report alleged mismanagement and abuses of authority among senior officials of the agency, after which Israel called for UNRWA’s closure.
The ethics report claimed that since 2015, members of UNRWA’s inner circle have been steadily consolidating their power, but that the situation escalated markedly from the beginning of 2018, coinciding with the US decision to remove its funding, serving “as an excuse for an extreme concentration of decision-making power in members of the ‘clique.’”
It further claimed that these developments led to an “exodus of senior and other staff” and a work culture “characterized by low morale, fear of retaliation… distrust, secrecy, bullying, intimidation, and marginalization… and management that is highly dysfunctional, with a significant breakdown of the regular accountability structure.”
Much of the report focuses on allegations surrounding the conduct of Krahenbuhl, who took up the post in March 2014, citing a range of corrupt and unprofessional activities.
Shortly after the details of the report became known, the Netherlands and Switzerland suspended their funding of UNRWA. They were followed in August 2019 by the government of New Zealand.
While the main UN agency dealing with refugees – UNHCR – concentrates on resettling them, facilitating their voluntary repatriation or their local integration and resettlement, UNRWA maintains millions of people as refugees decade after decade, expanding the numbers year after year.
Tovah Lazaroff, Neville Teller, Omri Nahmias and Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.