Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the comments on the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) during a weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday.
“It is time UNRWA be dismantled and merged with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees,” Reuters quoted Netanyahu as saying.
According to the Israeli PM, as cited by the Jerusalem Post, “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 solve it.”
Netanyahu added that he had already conveyed the idea of shutting the agency down to US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley during her visit earlier this week.
“I told her it was time the United Nations re-examine UNRWA’s existence,” Netanyahu said.
The UNRWA was established by the UN General Assembly in 1949, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were evicted from their homes during the 1948 war which followed the emergence of the state of Israel. The agency currently helps over five million registered Palestinian refugees across the region, according to the UNRWA’s own statistics.
The UNRWA’s chief spokesman, Chris Gunness, dismissed Netanyahu’s ideas, stating that dismantling the agency lays out both of his and Haley’s powers and that only the 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,” Gunness told Reuters in an emailed statement.
A Gaza-based spokesman for the UNRWA, Adnan Abu Hasna, said that Netanyahu was pursuing a “fantasy.”
Good thread. I found Israeli officials understandably frustrated w/UNRWA construct, but aware it plays vital role, can’t just get rid of it. https://twitter.com/shalomlipner/status/873825174444965888 …
Netanyahu’s remarks came two days after the UNRWA said it had uncovered an alleged Hamas-built tunnel running under two agency-managed schools in a refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. The UNRWA condemned the construction of the tunnels as a violation of its neutrality and protested it to Hamas. The Islamist organization, however, denied involvement.
“UNRWA condemns the existence of such tunnels in the strongest possible terms. It is unacceptable that students and staff are placed at risk in such a way,” the agency said in a statement. “The construction and presence of tunnels under UN premises are incompatible with the respect of privileges and immunities owed to the United Nations under applicable international law, which provides that UN premises shall be inviolable. The sanctity and neutrality of UN premises must be preserved at all times.”
Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon submitted a letter of protest to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the UN Security Council, urging them to label Hamas a terrorist organization and “safeguard” the UNRWA, as well as other agencies “from abuse by terrorist organizations.”
Iran accuses US of alliance with ISIS, claims to have proof
Deputy Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Mostafa Izadi on Sunday accused the US of supporting Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), stating Tehran has evidence to back the bold allegations.
“We possess documents and information showing the direct supports by the US imperialism for this highly disgusting stream [IS] in the region which has destroyed the Islamic countries and created a wave of massacres and clashes,” Fars news agency quoted Izadi as saying.
The alleged American support for IS, according to Izadi, is an instrument of “proxy warfare in the region” which is a “new trick by the arrogant powers against the Islamic Republic.”
The statement of the Deputy Chief of Staff echoes the remarks made by Iran’s Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani on Friday. “The United States has aligned itself with the ISIL in the region,” Larijani said, according to the Fars news agency. Larijani’s was addressing a funeral ceremony of the victims of Wednesday terrorist attacks in Tehran.
Thousands gathered to commemorate the fallen, shouting “Death to Saudi Arabia” and “Death to America.”
“The [terrorist attacks] indicated that the terrorist groups had failed to achieve their main goal and targeted the parliament and Imam Khomeini Mausoleum, finally resorted to martyring the innocent people and the staff at the parliament,” Larijani added.
On Friday Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the attacks would only increase Tehran’s hatred against the US and its “stooges,” including Saudi Arabia.
IS has claimed responsibility for this week’s twin attack in Tehran. Seventeen people were killed when four armed assailants attacked the country’s parliament while a suicide bomber blew himself up at the Imam Khomeini Mausoleum.