UNRWA office in Jerusalem
Former Israeli mayor of Jerusalem and Likud MK Nir Barkat has put forth a bill calling for suspending the United Nations Relief and Works Agency’s (UNRWA) services for Palestinian refugees in Jerusalem by January 1.
The bill “aims to exercise the sovereignty of the State of Israel and implement Basic Law: Jerusalem, the capital of Israel,” it states. “UNRWA will cease to have representation, provide any service or conduct any activity in Israel. UNRWA will not open or operate a mission, provide services or hold a meeting or activity in the State of Israel – directly or indirectly.”
The proposed law also calls for halting UNRWA’s involvement in some of Jerusalem’s Arab educational institutions by the end of June 2020.
According to the Jerusalem Post daily, spokesperson for Barkat said the bill would apply only to east Jerusalem and not to Palestinian territories in the West Bank.
Barkat had been working toward replacing UNRWA with municipal services in the city while he was in office, from 2008 to 2018, his spokesperson said. As a result, less than 2% of Palestinians in Jerusalem receive UNRWA services.
Israeli news outlets said the bill received support from the majority of Knesset members, including by the party faction heads of Likud, the New Right, Shas, United Torah Judaism, Bayit Yehudi and Yisrael Beytenu.
The issue gained urgency for the Likud MK this month after the UN voted on November 15 to extend UNRWA’s mandate until 2023. Some 170 countries voted in favor of the extension. Only the United States and Israel voted against.