Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad proclaimed of late that a Palestinian State will come to fruition within two years, saying, “the time for this baby to be born will come… our vision, and a reflection of our will to exercise our right to live in freedom and dignity in the country we are born, alongside the State of Israel in complete harmony.”
The question that comes to mind, however is this: Are the organizations that might prevent a Palestinian State being dismantled or at least working to remove themselves?
Specifically, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) which for over 60 years has diligently worked to perpetuate the Palestinian refugee problem rather than solve it.
Now that more and more policy-makers and individuals are aware of UNRWA’s problems, how do we significantly decrease the hold UNRWA has on Palestinian society?
If we are to work towards improving the environment in which Palestinians reside in and work towards the creation of institutions that will foster civil society and promote some element of democratization, all the services UNRWA currently provides to the Palestinians should be handed over to parallel agencies within the UN, who already provide duplicate services for other UN beneficiaries.
Gradually weaning Palestinians off UNRWA and moving the inter-dependency from UNRWA to the Palestinian Authority must be the ultimate goal.
Consequently of late, 85 five members of Congress lead by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-FL, wrote to President Obama March 29 expressing their concern about the
US contributions to UNRWA totaling $95 million, given UNRWA’s open ties to Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO).
UNRWA in its current configuration is a liability for many reasons. By granting its employees U.N. diplomatic status, it undercuts the organization’s accountability.
Too many UNRWA workers have abused their diplomatic privilege to engage in or encourage terrorism.
Television crews have filmed UNRWA employees escorting armed Palestinian fighters in U.N. vehicles. Agency-operated – and, by extension, America-funded – schools decorate their classrooms with flags and banners celebrating terrorist groups.
All this must stop if we ever want to see any kind of change in addition, to calling for accountability as well as checks and balances from those agencies we finance.
Without reforming the workforce, UNRWA’s functions cannot be transferred. We must clean out the organization and help those individuals find work within new agencies – governmental and non-governmental – that actually work for the benefit of the Palestinian people.
Better yet, the Palestinian Authority should utilize the talents of former-UNRWA staff to actually create social services within the frame-work of the Palestinian Authority.
A principle policy issue for the United States will be how to aid in mobilizing donors, both public and private, for a financial infusion of aid resources to finance refugee compensation (and resettlement, immigration, and rehabilitation), as well as the permanent status agreement in general. All of this must be done outside the UNRWA framework.
UNRWA has transformed itself into a propaganda machine for such thinking. America as a share-holder should take a close look at where our money is being spent.
Moreover, it is crucial that the U.S. (and other parties truly interested in finding a peaceful resolution to the Palestinian refugee issue) seeks a true international body that, unlike the United Nations, is actually representative of the totality of the global community. It is incumbent upon Americans NOT to buy in to the myths groups like UNRWA try to sell us.
As President Obama views the establishment of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel as a huge achievement, we have the opportunity to show why all the services that UNRWA currently provides should be the responsibility of the current Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian “state to-be.”
Thus, if the current Palestinian leadership is truly concerned about changing the status of Palestinian society they should work to remove all the obstacles that are preventing change and democratization which is exactly what UNRWA does.
Finally, if Mahmoud Abbas and Salem Fayed want to prove that they are sincere about having an independent Palestinian State living side by side in peace with Israel.
Taking UNRWA out of the equation would be a step in the right direction, as UNRWA does not work towards a resolution. In fact, UNRWA perpetuates the problem.