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Netanyahu begs UN to dismantle its Palestinian aid agency

UNRWA sponsored school in the besieged Gaza Strip [AFP]

Date of publication: 11 June, 2017

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Netanyahu claimed the agency's very existence "perpetuates and does not solve the Palestinian refugee problem."
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has called for the UN to shut down its Palestinian refugee aid agency (UNRWA), claiming its philanthropic activities toward Palestinians are responsible for incitement against the Jewish state.

Netanyahu said on Sunday that he had raised the issue during Washington UN envoy Nicky Haley's visit, who has accused the United Nations of bias against Israel.

"I told her that the time had come for the United Nations to reconsider the continued existence of UNRWA," his office quoted him as saying, referring to the UN Relief and Welfare Agency.

He said that while millions of other refugees around the world were cared for by the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), only the Palestinians have their own body.

"In UNRWA's institutions, there is a great deal of incitement against Israel," Netanyahu said during the weekly cabinet meeting.

He also claimed the agency's very existence "perpetuates and does not solve the Palestinian refugee problem".

"Therefore it is time to dismantle UNRWA and merge its parts into the UNHCR," he added.

UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said the agency's future could not be decided unilaterally.

"UNRWA receives its mandate from the UN General Assembly and only the UN General Assembly, by a majority vote, can change our mandate," Gunness said, adding that in December the assembly extended the mandate for a further three years.

UNRWA runs hundreds of schools for Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip, the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.

It also distributes aid and provides teacher training centres, health clinics and social services.

Israel views the agency as biased against it and its Palestinian staff as frequently hostile.

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