Likud lawmaker appeals to countries to permanently freeze funds to UNRWA

Knesset lawmaker Dan Illouz issues letter signed by 20 Israeli politicians to countries who halted their support to the UN Palestinian refugee agency, saying the time is right to completely cut funding to the organization

Likud Knesset member Dan Illouz issued a letter to parliament members from countries that froze their funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) signed by 20 members of Knesset from both the coalition and opposition, calling for the halt in funding to be made permanent.
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The letter states that the world needs to find alternatives to UNRWA. "The disturbing revelations about UNRWA's involvement in activities undermining the principles of peace and security require a critical examination of aid networks acting to help Palestinians," the letter noted.
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ארכיון משאית אונר"א ליד מעבר רפיח
ארכיון משאית אונר"א ליד מעבר רפיח
UNRWA truck near the Egyptian border crossing to Gaza
(Photo: REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh/File Photo)
"This moment presents a valuable opportunity not only for temporary measures against the organization, but for a different approach in the distribution of aid that aligns with our mutual commitment to advancing peace and stability in the region," the letter added.
"This organization perpetuates the conflict and actively takes part in it. It’s an organization that educates for terrorism, cooperates with terrorism, and even pays a salary to employees who are in truth terrorists themselves," according to Illouz.
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ח"כ דן אילוז
ח"כ דן אילוז
Dan Illouz
(Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)
In January, UNRWA announced it had launched an investigation into suspicions alleging 12 of its employees were involved in Hamas’ murderous attack on Israel on October 7. The organization later announced it had cut ties with nine of the employees, while another two were found dead.
So far, nine major donor countries have halted their support to UNRWA following the allegations, including the U.S., Germany, Switzerland, Canada, the Netherlands, the UK, Italy, Australia and Finland providing a joint sum of nearly $700 million to the organization annually.
Meanwhile, UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini is scheduled to visit three Gulf states this week, seeking to drum up support after the suspended funding.
Lazzarini said on the X social media platform that he met with the United Arab Emirates' (UAE) Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Monday to discuss UNRWA's work in "preserving the stability in the region" and delivering aid to two million people in Gaza.
Spokesperson Juliette Touma told Reuters that Lazzarini would then visit Qatar and Kuwait later this week.
"We are hoping those that paused (funding) will reconsider and others will step forward as well," she said.
Kuwait and Qatar occupy the number 19 and 20 spots in UNRWA's list of top 20 donors, giving $12 million and $10.5 million each in 2022. The United Arab Emirates was not listed.
UNRWA, set up in 1949 after the war surrounding the founding of Israel, provides critical education, health and aid services to millions of Palestinians across Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. In Gaza, it is providing shelter for some one million people newly displaced by the Israel-Hamas conflict.
While some countries like Spain and private donors have stepped up to help the agency since the financial crisis began last month, Touma said that it was not nearly enough to offset the gap estimated at about $440 million.
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