United States President Donald Trump’s decision to cut all American funding to the UNRWA is a “welcome and important change,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Sunday as he marked the start of the 2018-2019 school year with a visit to the Breuer state religious elementary school in Yad Binyamin.
Netanyahu said that Israel, unlike the Palestinians had resettled people whose lives had been uprooted, be they settlers from Gush Katif who had found new homes after the 2005 disengagement, including in Yad Binyamin; refugees from the Holocaust and refugees from Arab countries.
“This community has absorbed people who were uprooted from Gush Katif,” Netanyahu said. “The lives of people who were uprooted from Gush Katif could have been a tragedy, a terrible disaster. It started with terrible pain but the State of Israel and all the citizens of Israel worked together so that the people who were uprooted from Gush Katif would not be refugees in their country. We absorbed them and they resumed their lives, their splendid lives.”
The prime minister continued: “Haven’t uprooted people come to us from all kinds of countries? Holocaust survivors who were torn from their land? From communities that they had lived in, in Lithuania – for 500 years, from Poland – for 1,000 years. They were uprooted, survived and came here. Did we leave them as refugees? No, we absorbed them, from Arab countries as well. They were uprooted, from the same war, the war of liberation. Hundreds of thousands of Jews who came here as refugees without anything; they left all their property behind. We did not leave them as refugees; we turned them into equal citizens, who contribute, in our state.”
The Palestinians, however, had failed to absorb refugees, Netanyahu said, but instead sought to perpetuate their situation. “This is not what is happening with the Palestinians. There they created a unique institution, 70 years ago, not to absorb the refugees but to perpetuate them. Therefore the US has done a very important thing by halting the financing for the refugee perpetuation agency known as UNRWA. It is finally beginning to resolve the problem. The funds must be taken and used to genuinely help rehabilitate the refugees, the true number of which is much smaller than the number reported by UNRWA. This is a welcome and important change and we support it.”