Following reports that Israel is campaigning for the dissolution of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and its integration in the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHRC), PLO and Palestinian Authority (PA) institutions and officials said that Israel is acting to thwart the Palestinian refugees' right to return to their homes. They stressed that there will be no concessions on this issue, and that the only possible solution to the refugee problem is implementing UN Resolution 194 on their right of return.
The following are excerpts from some of the statements.
The key – a symbol of the right of return (image: paltimes.ps, September 12, 2017)
The Refugee Problem Will Be Resolved By Implementing UN Resolution 194; There Will Be No Concessions On This
A statement released by the Palestinian Information Ministry on September 12, 2017 said: "The right of return is anchored in UN resolutions and in particular in Resolution 194. There will be no Palestinian concessions on the right of return. The persistent, toxic attempts by Israel and its leaders [to deny this right] are not new. The founder of Israel, David Ben Gurion, said about this: 'The old refugees will die and the young will forget'... The most appropriate response to the attempts to eliminate the issue of the refugees is to remind the world that it opposes the occupation and that, decades ago, it voted in favor of [the refugees'] return and compensation, and also to ask Israeli diplomats about the hundreds of Palestinian cities and villages that the Zionist gangs destroyed in 1948 and about the crimes, ethnic cleansing and expulsion that occurred there. The [PA] Information Ministry stresses that the dissolution of UNRWA, and the cessation of its services, will take place one day after the UN resolutions regarding the refugees' return and compensation are implemented to the letter. This is the time for the UN to seriously consider placing full responsibility for the Nakba on the occupying entity [i.e., Israel] and charging it with financing all of UNRWA's needs, on the force of international law and the UN Security Council and UN General Assembly resolutions."
In an interview with the Palestinian news agency WAFA, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki said that "Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu dispatched a delegation to Washington to discuss the dismantling of UNRWA in order to pressure the Palestinians to make concessions. There will be no concessions on this issue. We will not succumb to any blackmail on this... It is a red line as far as we are concerned."
In its September 12, 2017 weekly session, chaired by Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, the Palestinian government condemned the "campaign initiated by the Israeli government to usurp UNRWA's mandate [to care] for the Palestinian [refugees], after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanded UNRWA's dissolution and its integration in the UNHRC." The government emphasized "the permanent and principled position of the PLO and the Palestinian leadership with regards to resolving the problem of the Palestinian refugees, i.e. the implementation of UN Resolution 194 and opposition to resettling the refugees [elsewhere], in any way. The government made it clear that UNRWA would continue providing services to the refugees by virtue of the mandate granted it in UN Resolution 302.
In this context, the Palestinian prime minister told UNRWA representatives: "The international community is obligated to guarantee UNRWA's continued activity, as it is the living witness to the Palestinians' tragedy and to the magnitude of the crime [committed] against them. The refugee problem is the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Its resolution according to UN decisions, and in particular Resolution 194, is the primary way to end the conflict and attain peace."
PLO Executive Committee: We Will Fiercely Oppose Israel's Calls For UNRWA's Dissolution
The PLO Executive Committee warned of the danger posed by Israel's diplomatic campaign to dissolve UNRWA and clarified that it would fiercely oppose this campaign, along with the Palestinian public, particularly in the refugee camps. It added that Israel was doing this "to cover up its crime that led to the expulsion of Palestinians from their cities and villages and to the destruction and takeover of their property through acts of looting that have been ongoing ever since the Nakba."
Director Of PLO's Department of Refugee Affairs: Israel Means To Undermine Refugees' Right Of Return To Their Homes
It should be noted that, already in June 2017, it was reported that Netanyahu had called for dissolving UNRWA and integrating it in the UNHCR on the grounds that it perpetuates the refugee problem by leaving it unresolved, and because it incites against Israel. In response, the director of the PLO's Department of Refugee Affairs, Ahmad Hanoun, said in a press release: "Netanyahu's call is intended to deliver a blow to the refugees' right to return to the homes from which they were expelled in 1948 and eliminate the living witness to the Palestinian Nakba [i.e., UNRWA]."