Recent Scandals at UNRWA Are Symptoms of Much Deeper Corruption

Aug. 14 2019

Last month, news broke that the Swiss head of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine (UNRWA)—the organization that caters to Palestinian refugees and their descendants—promoted his mistress so that she could join him on his frequent and expensive travels, which his subordinates complain have kept him away from his duties. His deputy, meanwhile, used her influence to have her husband promoted. While these revelations have been greeted with outrage by some of the European governments that fund UNRWA, Alex Joffe and Asaf Romirowsky argue that these abuses are the natural consequence of what has long been known about the organization:

In the past, UNRWA has . . . employ[ed] Hamas members and us[ed] anti-Semitic textbooks [in its schools]. Rockets have also been found hidden at UNRWA schools on several occasions. Perhaps it’s unsurprising that an organization so corrupt at the bottom is even more corrupt at the top. . . .

One lesson to be learned from this scandal is that funders must demand internal controls, external audits, and public access to information. . . . Scrutiny is also needed on the Palestinian Authority, which uses foreign aid to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in pensions to terrorists and their families.

A second lesson concerns the danger of devoting an international organization to a single population. UNRWA was effectively taken over by Palestinians decades ago. Politicization began at the bottom with school curricula, but crept upward. . . .

This latest scandal is an opportunity for the U.S., together with other angry donors, to demand a phase-out plan for the entire organization. UNRWA’s 30,000 employees could join the Palestinian Authority, which would take over its health, education, and welfare responsibilities like the state it claims to be. UNRWA’s expensive international cadre, including lobbyists in Washington and Geneva, should be disbanded. And Palestinian residents of Arab states . . . should become citizens of those states, as they are in Jordan, or of the Palestinian Authority. If Palestinians truly desire a state, they should join the call for UNRWA’s abolition.

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More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinians, UNRWA


Is There a Way Out of Israel’s Political Deadlock?

On Tuesday, leaders of the Jewish state’s largest political parties, Blue and White and Likud, met to negotiate the terms of a coalition agreement—and failed to come to an agreement. If none of the parties in the Knesset succeeds in forming a governing coalition, there will be a third election, with no guarantee that it will be more conclusive than those that preceded it. Identifying six moves by key politicians that have created the deadlock, Shmuel Rosner speculates as to whether they can be circumvented or undone:

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Election 2019, Israeli politics