Municipality to take over UNRWA services in East Jerusalem

On Friday, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, expressed “concern” at the announcement by the Israeli Mayor of Jerusalem of his plan to remove the agency from the city.

The UN agency said in a statement that it operated “in accordance” with the charter and UN resolutions, and with the agreement of the State of Israel, “which UNRWA remains committed to … provide protection and assistance to Palestine refugees in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.”

On Thursday, the Jerusalem municipality announced in a statement that it had drawn up a “detailed plan” to oust UNWRA and take its place in the services that the agency provides in East Jerusalem; that being schools, clinics and waste collection.

The implementation of the plan raises questions as the Mayor, Nir Barkat, is not running for re-election in the Municipal elections of October 30.

But he said in Thursday’s statement that Trump’s US administration’s decision to cut funds to UNRWA “creates a rare opportunity” for the municipality.

“We are putting an end to the lie that is the problem of Palestinian refugees and the attempts to establish sovereignty within another sovereignty,” Mayor Barkat said.

It refers to the sovereignty proclaimed by Israel throughout Jerusalem, including occupied and annexed East Jerusalem.

Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of the state to which they aspire.

The issues of Jerusalem and refugees are among the most difficult for a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

UNRWA serves millions of Palestinians in the Palestinian Territories and the region.

In East Jerusalem, it operates several schools and health centers, particularly in Shufat camp where, according to an estimate of the agency, about 24,000 people reside.

UNRWA has more than 600 people working in East Jerusalem, according to a source close to the agency.

The Trump administration halting of UNRWA funds has pushed the agency to downsize.

The US justifies its decision by its “disproportionate” contribution to the functioning of the agency compared to other countries.

Trump also invoked the UNRWA model, which he said perpetuated the issue of refugees by transmitting status from generation to generation, as well as the UN’s bias towards the Palestinians.

These reproaches are also those of the Israeli government. The schools and medical centers of UNRWA in East Jerusalem are without Israeli licenses and “illegal”, according to the municipality.

Pro-Palestinian organizations denounce the unequal treatment of West Jerusalem and East Jerusalem by the municipality.

All UNRWA schools in East Jerusalem will be closed at the end of the school year, in the summer of 2019, and students will be returned to municipal schools by the next school year, according to the municipality.

The mayor intends to proceed with expropriations, lease breaks and transfers of activities to other structures.

Source: Palestine Monitor