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Netanyahu: UN Palestinian refugee agency 'must disappear'

Netanyahu: UN Palestinian refugee agency 'must disappear'

The Axios news website reported last Friday that the United States payment to UNWRA - representing one-third of America's annual contribution to the UN refugee agency that is exclusively dedicated to the Palestinians - was due to arrive on January 1, but was halted.

The US State Department has denied a report that $125 million in American funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has been frozen.

"It also perpetuates the right of return narrative in order to eliminate the state of Israel, therefore UNRWA must become a thing of the past", Netanyahu said.

"I have made a simple proposal: UNRWA support funds need to be gradually shifted to the UNHCR, with clear criteria for supporting genuine refugees, not fictitious refugees as happens today under UNRWA", the Israeli prime minister said.

Observers said UNRWA's support for Palestinian refugees actually helped Israel, by taking responsibility for the health, education and overall well-being of displaced Palestinians and their offspring.

In addition to its services in Gaza, UNRWA operates in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

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This statement comes in line with U.S. threats to cut funds to the UNRWA, the body which serves millions of Palestinian refugees, if the Palestinians do not return to negotiations with Israel.

The US has long provided the Palestinian Authority with much-needed budgetary support and security assistance, as well as an additional $304 million for United Nations programs in the West Bank and Gaza.

On Friday, reports suggested the USA had already frozen a $125 million grant to UNRWA, which was supposed to be delivered on January 1. In 2012, an estimated 30,000-50,000 were still alive but there were an additional 4,950,000 "registered patrilineal descendants" of the original refugees, 1.5 million of them living in UNRWA camps.

"While UNRWA is far from flawless, the Israeli defense establishment, and the Israeli government as a whole, have over the years come to the understanding that all the alternatives are worse for Israel", Peter Lerner, a former spokesman for the Israeli military, wrote in an opinion piece in Haaretz newspaper last week.

"In an extreme situation, the administration of those refugees could fall on Israel's shoulders".


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