Katz: Israel, Swiss Will Work to Develop Alternative to UNWRA

Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

UNWRA, the United Nations organization that works with Palestinian refugees, has over the years done nothing to help refugees or their descendants get on with their lives, and instead has labored mightily to keep Palestinians in refugee camps, dependent on the U.N. dole, according to Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz. And he has apparently convinced the Swiss of the legitimacy of his argument – because on Wednesday, Katz announced that he would be working with the Swiss to develop an alternative to UNWRA.

Katz met Tuesday night with Ueli Maurer, president of the Swiss Confederation, along with Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis, and discussed with him a number of topics, including the UNWRA issue. In recent months, UNWRA has been plagued with a number of scandals, which involve abuse, nepotism, corruption and “other abuses of authority,” an official United Nations report says. That comes in addition to previous scandals, and the cooperation of UNWRA officials with terror groups, such as the storage of Hamas weapons in UNWRA schools during Operation Protective Edge in 2014.

Israeli officials have for years decried the U.N. organization that, according to many, preserved the status of “refugee” among Arabs who fled what would become the State of Israel in 1948. Legislation in many Arab countries prevents them from becoming citizens, and many are forced to live in refugee camps, which over the years in many cases have become thriving cities, with infrastructure, schools and businesses – and much of it funded by UNWRA.

In 2018, the United States cut off most funding to the organization, and in recent months, other countries – including Switzerland – have followed suit. Katz reminded Cassis that he himself had said that “UNWRA is the problem, not the solution.” The three agreed that UNWRA’s actions have not only not helped Palestinians, but harmed them – and that an alternative was in order.

On Tuesday, Katz discussed with Swiss officials the possibility of canceling a Swiss law that allows for the arrest of Israelis who are accused of “war crimes” by Arabs. Under the law, Swiss law enforcement officials can execute arrest orders for individuals who are named by petitions to the International Criminal Court and local Swiss courts by Palestinians, accused of killing terrorists or causing harm to civilian populations. Katz told officials that the petitions are unfair, as the Israeli “defendants” were engaged in defending the country against terrorists.