Ayalon blasts UNRWA, saying it perpetuates conflict

Deputy FM addresses UNHCR on 60th anniversary of refugee convention, says Israel cooperates with organization in repatriation of Africans.

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon at UNHCR 150 (photo credit: Courtesy of the Foreign Minister's Office)
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon at UNHCR 150
(photo credit: Courtesy of the Foreign Minister's Office)
A day after the US praised the work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon took the organization to task on Thursday. He accused it of perpetuating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by not finding permanent solutions for refugees.
Speaking at a conference in Geneva marking the 60th anniversary of the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, Ayalon underlined the anomaly that the UN has one organization that deals with tens of millions of refugees from around the world, and another to deal with 4.7 million Palestinian refugees.
“While the UNHCR [UN High Commissioner for Refugees] has found durable solutions for tens of millions of refugees, the agency created specifically for the Palestinian context has found durable solutions for no one,” he said.
UNRWA’s actions have pushed a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict further away, he said, adding that “this is morally and politically unacceptable.”
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On Wednesday, however, Rosemary DiCarlo, US deputy ambassador to the UN, told a UNRWA pledging conference in New York that the US remained steadfast in support of UNRWA, and said the organization has “improved the lives of millions.” The US is the largest donor to UNRWA, contributing $249 million in 2011 to UNRWA programs.
In Geneva, Ayalon also reminded his listeners of Jewish refugees from Arab lands, some 850,000, who fled their homes after Israel was established. He said that while the refugee issue was a “core element” in solving the conflict, both Palestinian and Jewish refugees have to be taken into account. “Jewish refugees also requires redress,” he said.
Ayalon used his participation in the refugee conference to launch a video entitled “The truth about the Refugees,” the third in a series of hasbara (public diplomacy) videos looking at different aspects of the Israeli-Arab conflict.
“Why can’t the Palestinian refugees share an agency with the refugees of Bosnia, Congo or Darfur?” Ayalon asked in the video. “The answer is, because while the United Nation’s central refugee agency helps refugees resettle, the United Nation’s Palestinian refugee agency helps perpetuate their status by applying unique criteria.”