The Atchalta team participated in an open discussion of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee called by MK Ze’ev Elkin that dealt with UNRWA. In the discussion it was revealed that more than two weeks after important countries stopped their support for the Agency due to its connection to Hamas, there was no discussion on the issue led by the Prime Minister or the head of the National Security Council.
The professional echelon in various government ministries is the one that actually crystalizes the policy vis-a-vis UNRWA. They are acting without coordination and with a very vague directive. For example, even though Israeli intelligence officials claimed to have presented the Americans with incriminating materials regarding UNRWA, Israel did not pass such information to the European Union (at least according to EU High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Joseph Borrell). On the one hand, it is reported that the Prime Minister instructed the IDF to examine alternatives to working with UNRWA in the field, and on the other hand, the state representatives in Washington explain why at this stage UNRWA has no alternative there.
The government’s conduct does not reflect an internalization of how significant the issue is, as one that may instill a sense of loss for Hamas in the war. The dissolution of UNRWA means the practical cancellation of the ‘right of return’ and its removal from the agenda. According to UNRWA’s unique definition, the status of a refugee is inherited. The Agency does not update its lists, and even those hundreds of thousands ‘refugees’ who have left the refugee camps, become citizens elsewhere, left abroad, or now live under Palestinian rule – are counted as refugees. Thus, their number today has climbed to almost 6 million, while after the War of Independence in 1948 they numbered only about 700 thousand refugees.
Updating the number of refugees according to the existing generic definitions of the United Nations, is expected to reduce their number to several tens of thousands at most and, in fact, eliminate the issue of the refugees as an important variable in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Hamas will not be able to claim victory if the result of the war it started is the practical cancellation of ‘the right of return’.
The fear of a humanitarian crisis is of course a weighty issue. But even in this case, the solution seems to be available. Until now, the international community adopted the Egyptian point of view and looked at the problem of the displaced people as a political problem rather than a humanitarian one. The possibility of dismantling UNRWA might be a reason for creating international pressure on Egypt to temporarily open its border. Unfortunately, so far, no such pressure has been applied.
In any case, these are weighty issues, and it is unperceivable that they are not dealt with by politicians, but rather by the professional ranks.