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Netanyahu to UN envoys: ‘UNRWA totally infiltrated with Hamas’

The Israeli prime minister told the eight visiting ambassadors it is time to replace the agency tasked with supporting the Palestinians.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hosts U.N. ambassadors at his office in Jerusalem, Jan. 31, 2024. Photo by Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hosts U.N. ambassadors at his office in Jerusalem, Jan. 31, 2024. Photo by Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a visiting delegation of United Nations ambassadors on Wednesday that “UNRWA is totally infiltrated with Hamas.”

Furthermore, the premier called to replace the U.N. agency because it intergenerationally perpetuates the Palestinian “refugee” issue, preventing Israel-Palestinian peace.

He hosted the group at his office in Jerusalem. The visitors represented Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Malta, Romania, Sierra Leone, Slovenia and Ukraine. They were accompanied by Israel’s U.N. ambassador, Gilad Erdan, who is taking them on a tour of the country for the first time since Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre.

“I think it’s time that the international community and the U.N. itself understand that UNRWA’s mission has to end. UNRWA is self-perpetuating,” Netanyahu told the diplomats.

“It is self-perpetuating also in its desire to keep alive the Palestinian refugee issue. And we need to get other U.N. agencies and other aid agencies replacing UNRWA if we’re going to solve the problem of Gaza as we intend to do. There are other agencies in the U.N. There are other agencies in the world. They have to replace UNRWA,” he continued.

“UNRWA is totally infiltrated with Hamas,” the prime minister said. “It has been in the service of Hamas and its schools, and in many other things. I say this with great regret because we hoped that there would be an objective and constructive body to offer aid. We need such a body today in Gaza. But UNRWA is not that body. It has to be replaced by some organization or organizations that will do that job.”

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant met with the U.N. delegation on Thursday, disclosing information linking UNRWA employees to Hamas and stressing that the agency does not function as a legitimate aid organization.

Gallant described UNRWA as “Hamas with a facelift.”

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant briefs a delegation of U.N. ambassadors visiting Israel, Feb. 1, 2024. Photo by Ariel Hermoni/IMoD.

UNRWA came under fire after The New York Times broke the story on Sunday that 12 staff members took part in the Oct. 7 massacre in which Hamas terrorists rampaged through Israel’s south, murdering some 1,200 persons, mostly civilians.

The Wall Street Journal subsequently reported that one in 10 UNRWA employees is either an active member or has ties to Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

“Our intelligence indicates that out of approximately 12,000 UNRWA employees in the Gaza Strip, about 10% are Hamas or Islamic Jihad operatives, and another 50% are first-degree relatives of a Hamas operative,” Prime Minister’s Office spokesman Eylon Levy said on Jan. 30.

At least 15 countries, including the U.S. and the U.K., suspended funding to the organization following the revelations. The U.S. is UNRWA’s largest donor, giving the group $422 million in 2023.

Despite Israel’s demands that UNRWA be replaced, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said earlier this week that it was not possible for another entity to play its role.

Likud lawmaker Nir Barkat has revived plans to oust UNRWA from all Israeli sovereign territory, including eastern Jerusalem. The former mayor of Israel’s capital city and other Knesset members submitted a bill to ban the U.N. agency.

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