Palestinians applaud renewal of UNRWA mandate

"A big achievement for Palestinian diplomacy and severe blow to US and Israel."

Palestinian girls play as they take part in an activity at a summer camp organized by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), in Gaza City July 10, 2019. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian girls play as they take part in an activity at a summer camp organized by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), in Gaza City July 10, 2019.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian officials and factions on Saturday welcomed the United Nation’s vote in favor of extending the mandate of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), calling it a “victory” for the Palestinian cause and a “defeat” for the US and Israel.
Palestinian officials praised the vote as a “huge achievement” for Palestinian diplomacy and a “severe blow” to the US and Israel, the only two countries that opposed the extension of UNRWA’s mandate.
On Friday, the UN General Assembly approved the extension of UNRWA’s mandate.
The move was supported by 170 countries, with only the US and Israel voting against. Seven countries abstained: Cameroon, Guatemala, Nauru, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Vanautau, and Canada.
Palestinian Authority officials had recently campaigned in favor of extending the mandate of UNRWA, which was created in 1949 to supply aid to Palestinian refugees.
In September 2018, the US administration announced that it was ending all US funding to UNRWA, describing the agency as “irredeemably  flawed.”
Last week, UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl resigned after a UN ethics report alleged mismanagement and abuses of authority among senior officials of the agency.
Last Friday hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated in Ramallah, calling for the extension of UNRWA’s mandate. The demonstrators accused the US and Israel of seeking to “abolish” the rights of the refugees by ending UNRWA’s mandate. The demonstration was organized by several Palestinian political factions.
Welcoming the extension of UNRWA’s mandate, PA President Mahmoud Abbas said it was proof that “the whole world stands by our people and their inalienable historic rights.” The vote, he said, also reflects the international community’s support for the Palestinian refugees “until their case is resolved on the basis of UN resolutions.”
“This is an important and historic resolution,” Abbas said in reference to Friday’s vote. “We thank all the countries that stood by the Palestinians.”
PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said that the vote “reflects international solidarity with our people and belief in their national rights.” UNRWA, Shtayyeh said, represents the “cumulative memory of the tragedy of our people, and its preservation is necessary until the refugees return to their homeland and the homes from which they have been displaced.”
PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi said in a statement that she welcomes the overwhelming international support provided by UN member states in the UN General Assembly’s fourth Committee to the renewal of UNRWA’s mandate.
“This is a resounding victory for international law, justice, Palestine refugees, and for the UN agency that has so aptly served them for seven decades despite seemingly insurmountable challenges,” Ashrawi said.
“The Palestinian people welcome this principled vote of support and genuinely appreciate all states that voted in favor of this resolution and stood up to the US-Israeli campaign of pressure and intimidation. We view this vote as an unequivocal rejection of a malicious and cynical campaign led by the Trump administration and Israel to abolish UNRWA and revoke the inalienable rights of the Palestinian refugees.”
PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat commented on the vote by thanking the “170 nations who stood tall for international law and justice.”
The ruling Fatah faction also welcomed the vote, saying it came as a result of the “steadfastness of the Palestinians and their determination to achieve their national rights, first and foremost the right of return.” The vote to extend the mandate of UNRWA, Fatah said, is evidence of the isolation of Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the international arena.
Fatah spokesman Osama Qawassmeh said that the vote proves that the world “does not surrender to Israeli and American pressure and blackmail.”
The PLO’s Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) hailed the vote as a “big victory for Palestine and UNRWA and a stunning defeat and failure for the US and Israel.”