newsOctober 7

Netanyahu orders IDF to find UNRWA alternatives by end of week

Israel is seeking replacements for the disgraced U.N. agency.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi speak at Northern Command HQ in Safed, Dec. 7, 2023. Credit: Prime Minister's Office.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi speak at Northern Command HQ in Safed, Dec. 7, 2023. Credit: Prime Minister's Office.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has given the military until the end of the week to find alternatives to UNRWA for the distribution of humanitarian aid in the Gaza Strip.

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi is tasked with leading the effort to replace the terror-tainted United Nations agency.

While UNRWA currently oversees all humanitarian aid entering the Gaza Strip, Hamas has been hijacking a significant amount of it. The terrorist group steals 60% of the aid intended for Gazans, Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) head Ronen Bar recently said.

An Israeli intelligence report found that at least 12 UNRWA employees actively participated in the Oct. 7 massacre in the northwestern Negev, which saw around 1,200 murdered and an estimated 253 abducted to Gaza, leading more than a dozen countries, including the U.S., and the U.K., to suspend funding to the agency.

Additionally, the report shared with the U.S. administration found that about 10% of the agency’s 13,000 employees in Gaza are Hamas members.

On Monday, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres announced the establishment of an independent external review of UNRWA’s activities. The report will “assess whether the agency is doing everything within its power to ensure neutrality and to respond to allegations of serious breaches when they are made.”

The investigation team will be led by Catherine Colonna, who stepped down as the foreign minister of France on Jan. 11.

The final report is to be completed by late April and be available to the public.

This report is running parallel to another U.N. investigation already underway into the allegations against the 12 UNRWA employees. That probe is being led by the U.N. Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS).

Moreover, UNRWA is conducting its own probe into the Israeli allegations, with a preliminary report set to be published early next month.

While the IDF looks into UNRWA alternatives, the Israeli Foreign Ministry is proposing to redirect aid to the Palestinians through the World Food Programme, an organization within the United Nations that provides food assistance worldwide. 

Another option under consideration, pending American support, is funneling the support through USAID, an independent agency of the United States government primarily responsible for administering civilian foreign aid and development assistance.

Both international organizations are listed in an Israeli Foreign Ministry paper being prepared to offer alternatives to UNRWA that will be presented to the nation’s Security Cabinet for approval.

However, The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that Jerusalem is “quietly pushing” the United States and U.N. to continue allowing UNRWA to play a leading role in distributing aid to Gaza.

According to the report, which cites American and Israeli officials, an Israeli delegation including senior military officials traveled to the U.S. last week to meet with top Biden administration officials and Guterres about the future of UNRWA.

They reportedly conveyed the importance in the near term for UNRWA to continue managing aid distribution, while emphasizing that a thorough investigation into the 12 workers accused of taking part in the Oct. 7 massacre must be conducted. The Israelis also said that the agency needs to be reformed or abolished in the long term.

“We want there to be a plan of action on how to replace them. We want our international partners to either reform UNRWA entirely or to come up with an alternative,” an Israeli official told the Journal.

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