Palestinian pupils attend an UNRWA school in Gaza 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) is one of the
greatest stumbling blocks to the peace process, MK Einat Wilf (Independence)
said at a meeting with 65 ambassadors and senior diplomats from around the world
in Bar-Ilan University on Tuesday night.
Wilf launched a new,
international parliamentary campaign to restructure UNRWA and “combat the
inflation of numbers of refugees” to make a two-state solution
“When I hear a Palestinian say that there is a ‘right of
return’ into the sovereign State of Israel, I question whether they want peace
and accept the idea of a two-state solution that includes a state for Jews and a
state for Arabs,” Wilf explained at a Bar-Ilan University Ambassador’s Forum
discussion on UNRWA.
“Only UNRWA grants an unparalleled automatic
hereditary refugee status,” she added.
Unlike the UN High Commissioner
for Refugees, which deals with all refugees that are not Palestinian, UNRWA
provides services to the descendants of refugees of the 1948 War of
Independence, thus increasing the amount of refugees reported each
Wilf called for the international community to address the
inflation in refugee numbers, and plans to appeal to parliamentary committees
that are responsible for approving budget contributions to UNRWA.
proposal is for those committees to move funding to UNRWA from core funding, for
general purposes, to targeted funding, for specific purposes.
example, Wilf said, if Gaza is indisputably part of a future Palestinian state,
a baby born in Gaza today should not be considered a refugee. Donor
countries could continue to fund hospitals, schools and welfare in Gaza, but the
aid should not be connected to refugee status, rather need.
Independence chairwoman also accused UNRWA of undermining efforts to bolster the
Palestinian Authority as the future government of a Palestinian state, and
suggested that funds directed towards UNRWA programs in the West Bank be
transferred to the PA to strengthen its future state.
In addition, Wilf
called for UNRWA programs in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan be merged with those of
Once these steps are implemented, she explained, the amount of
refugees will be “deflated,” and lowered to approximately
According to Wilf, the “real number” will pave the way for a
two-state solution, in that “even a right-wing government” could accept those
refugees into Israel, if they agree to live in peace with their
A number of the diplomats present, who hail from six
continents, opposed Wilf’s proposal that these steps be taken before a final
peace agreement, saying that core issues must be dealt with via
The MK, however, said that if the process is not inverted,
negotiations are much less likely to be successful.