United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini will attend a summit in Rome on saving the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) from its financial woes. The foreign ministers of Jordan, Sweden and Egypt will chair the conference.
UNRWA, created in 1949 to care for a few hundred thousand Arab refugees who fled Israel during its War of Independence, is now caring for some five million people, only an estimated 20,000 of whom were included in its original mandate. No other agency that cares for refugees in history has experienced a steep growth in clientele over the years – the rest of them work to turn refugees under their care to permanent residents enjoying new lives in their new countries.
But rather than to reprimand UNRWA for its abysmal record, which actually invents new refugees every year (how can one be a refugee in the place where one was born is secret UNRWA never reveals), the aim of the Rome conference, to take place at UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) headquarters, is “to actively support a collective response by the international community to protect the rights and dignity of Palestinian Refugees and ensure UNRWA’s unprecedented funding crisis of $446 million is urgently resolved.”
The missing funds were supposed to be provided by the world’s rich uncle, Sam, who in 2016 donated $368 million to UNRWA, and then gave $350 million in 2017, but decided to cut a third of his contributions for 2018. In January 2018, the United States withheld $65 million, roughly half the amount due that month.
Since President Donald Trump took office, the US has also demanded a review of UNRWA’s work and funding, calling for an increase in contributions from other countries. Trump does not wish to continue to bear 30% of the agency’s financial burden.
The Netanyahu government is not crazy about the idea of UNRWA going bankrupt, because for the moment, with all its illogical framework and long-term negative effect on the rehabilitation of millions of downtrodden offspring of the Arab refugees, the agency is a stabilizing force in the camps of the Gaza Strip and Judea and Samaria. But Netanyahu has recommended to Guterres that the Jordanian government should receive the funds currently going to UNRWA, because Jordan already hosts an estimated three million children of Arab refugees from Israel who have a Jordanian citizenship.
In his talks in NY with US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, Netanyahu recommended that the administration not cut its help to the population under UNRWA’s care. But should Jordan be handed the job and the funds to care for them, it could be a step in the direction of dismantling the provisional government in Ramallah. Netanyahu is on the record claiming that UNRWA’s services are prolonging the “refugees” problem. Keeping the aid coming but diminishing to role of UNRWA in the process would be Israel’s and the US’ aim at this point.