At a United Nations ministerial meeting on refugees in Geneva, Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon has questioned the use of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) which exclusively deals with Palestinian refugees. Ayalon argued against the two-tier system whereby Arabs displaced by the fighting in British Mandatory Palestine around the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 and their descendants are tended to by UNRWA while other refugees must look collectively to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
Israel has long argued that UNRWA perpetuates the conflict with the Palestinians, who insist on a ‘right of return’ for their refugees to land now in Israel, whereas the UNHCR has often worked to resettle its wards. “While the UNHCR has found durable solutions for tens of millions of refugees, the agency created specifically for the Palestinian context, UNRWA, has found durable solutions for no-one,” Ayalon told the conference, adding: “This has meant that a peaceful solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians remains further away. This is morally and politically unacceptable. The refugee issue is a core element towards finding a solution to our conflict and in its broader context would have to address both the Palestinian and the Jewish refugees forced to flee from Arab lands. Jewish refugees also require redress.”
Israel wants Palestinian refugees to resettle in a future Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, or elsewhere. Israelis also have called on the international community to give consideration to the hundreds of thousands of Jews from Arab countries who were dispossessed during the 1948 war and were mostly taken in by Israel.
In Geneva, Ayalon also announced that “Israel wll increase our annual contribution to UNHCR” and he offered UNHCR the use of Israel’s expertise and to work together, through MASHAV, Israel’s International Development Agency, to create and implement professional and vocational training programs in […] UNHCR’s refugee camps around the world, with the aim of uplifting the refugees’ standard of living and helping them to obtain a better future.”