Former US Middle East envoy calls for ‘transition away from UNRWA’

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Former US Middle East envoy calls for ‘transition away from UNRWA’

Dennis Ross argued that until there's a replacement for UNRWA, certain changes need to be made, such as ending its subservience of UNRWA to Hamas.

Dennis Ross, at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)
Dennis Ross, at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)

Former U.S. envoy to the Middle East, Dennis Ross, has called on UNRWA to be replaced, accusing it of being “a vehicle for Hamas”.

Ross, however, believes that the transition away from UNRWA should happen over time as it “must continue to perform humanitarian service right now during the course of this war.”

“One thing we should learn from this war: UNRWA, if not by design, certainly by consequence, effectively was a vehicle for Hamas. One thing that should not be the case in the aftermath of this war, is that UNRWA continues to play the role it did,” he told UN Watch.

Ross argued that until there’s a replacement for UNRWA, certain changes need to be made, such as ending its subservience of UNRWA to Hamas and a thorough vetting of the people who work for the agency.

“There are plenty of lists that are available, certainly the United States has a list of terrorists that OFAC produces. There should be vetting of the people who are working for UNRWA and compared to that list. UNRWA has never been prepared to accept anything like that. That is unquestionably something that needs to be done.”

Thirdly, beneficiaries of UNRWA also need to be “checked against these lists. It’s not just the people who are employees of UNRWA, it also has to be those people who are benefiting from it,” Ross said.

The former ambassador and Middle East envoy also argued that the idea that every generation, no matter where they live, should still be treated as if they’re on the books, as refugees, “makes no sense on its face.”

Lastly, the World Food Program should be responsible for distributing food rather than UNRWA, he said.

UNRWA has suspended nine of its workers after Israel provided the agency with evidence of their roles in the October 7 massacre.

One UNRWA worker was caught on a surveillance camera kidnapping an Israeli from Kibbutz Be’eri on October 7.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented a post-war plan last week, in which UNRWA will be abolished and no longer play a role in Gaza.

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