Only U.S. and Israel voted against a three year extension of UNRWAs mandate.

Only U.S. and Israel voted against a three year extension of UNRWAs mandate.

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November 20, 2019

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Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said it was proof that “the whole world stands by our people and their inalienable historic rights.”

The UN voted overwhelmingly Friday to extend UNRWA‘s mandate until 2023, approving by 170-2, a resolution that made no mention of the ethical probe into its managerial conduct.

Only the United States and Israel voted against the resolution. Seven countries abstained and 14 were not present for the preliminary vote at the UN’s Fourth Committee in New York. The abstaining countries were: Cameroon, Canada, Guatemala, Marshall Island, Nauru and Vanuatu. All of the 28 European Union member states supported the resolution.

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Palestinian officials praised the vote as a “huge achievement” for Palestinian diplomacy and a “severe blow” to the US and Israel, the only two countries that opposed the extension of UNRWA’s mandate.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said it was proof that “the whole world stands by our people and their inalienable historic rights.” The vote, he said, also reflects the international community’s support for the Palestinian refugees “until their case is resolved on the basis of UN resolutions.”

“This is an important and historic resolution. We thank all the countries that stood by the Palestinians,” Abbas said.

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon told The Jerusalem Post, “The votes today show that the UN is not interested in resolving the refugee issue or creating conditions for peace.”

“UNRWA remains a corrupt and ineffective organization that teaches generations of Palestinian children to hate Jews and denies Israel’s right to exist,” he said. “There is no reason why the UN has a refugee agency dedicated solely to the Palestinians. UNRWA is not interested in resettling Palestinian refugees but in extending its existence to undermine and threaten Israel’s sovereignty. Instead of extending its mandate, UNRWA should be voted out of existence.”

During Friday’s debate, Cherith Norman Chalet, acting US Deputy Representative to the United Nations, recalled that her country had halted its annual contributions to UNRWA in 2018.

“The fundamental model and fiscal practices that have marked UNRWA for years are simply unsustainable,” Chalet said, adding that her country also remained concerned about the ongoing probe into UNRWA.

Last week, UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl resigned after a UN ethics report alleged mismanagement and abuses of authority among senior officials of the agency.

“Given the seriousness of the UN’s preliminary findings in the ongoing OIOS [Office of Internal Oversight Services] investigation, we are disappointed to see that members of this body are not stepping up to be more discerning with the agency,” Chalet said. “All of us should be pressing the UN for full accountability for any malfeasance, increased transparency, and credible assurances that there are effective measures in place to prevent waste, fraud and abuse going forward.”

The US is ready to work on a plan to transfer UNRWA services provided by other agencies or local governments, she said.

“We also stand ready to engage with all of you on oversight issues so that any management practices and/or allegations of misconduct that are currently being investigated by the UN will not be repeated,” Chalet said.

UNRWA was established 70 years ago to supply aid to Palestinian refugees. Its mandate is renewed every three years, in two stages — the first stage took place on Friday with a vote at the Fourth Committee. The second stage is slated to occur in December at the General Assembly.

The resolution, which was approved on Friday, states that the UN is “expressing grave concern at the especially difficult situation of the Palestine refugees under occupation, including with regard to their safety, well-being and socioeconomic living conditions.”

It also expressed “grave concern in particular at the grave humanitarian situation and socioeconomic conditions of the Palestine refugees in the Gaza Strip, and underlining the importance of emergency and humanitarian assistance and urgent reconstruction efforts.”

Palestinian Authority officials had recently campaigned in favor of extending the mandate of UNRWA. On Friday, hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated in Ramallah, calling for the extension of UNRWA’s mandate. The demonstrators accused the US and Israel of seeking to “abolish” the rights of the refugees by ending UNRWA’s mandate. The demonstration was organized by several Palestinian political factions.

PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said that the vote “reflects international solidarity with our people and belief in their national rights.” UNRWA, Shtayyeh said, represents the “cumulative memory of the tragedy of our people, and its preservation is necessary until the refugees return to their homeland and the homes from which they have been displaced.”

PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi said in a statement that she welcomes the overwhelming international support provided by UN member states in the UN General Assembly’s fourth Committee to the renewal of UNRWA’s mandate.

“This is a resounding victory for international law, justice, Palestine refugees, and for the UN agency that has so aptly served them for seven decades despite seemingly insurmountable challenges,” Ashrawi said. “The Palestinian people welcome this principled vote of support and genuinely appreciate all states that voted in favor of this resolution and stood up to the US-Israeli campaign of pressure and intimidation. We view this vote as an unequivocal rejection of a malicious and cynical campaign led by the Trump administration and Israel to abolish UNRWA and revoke the inalienable rights of the Palestinian refugees.”

PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat commented on the vote by thanking the “170 nations who stood tall for international law and justice.”

The ruling Fatah faction also welcomed the vote, saying it came as a result of the “steadfastness of the Palestinians and their determination to achieve their national rights, first and foremost the right of return.” The vote to extend the mandate of UNRWA, Fatah said, is evidence of the isolation of US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the international arena.

Fatah spokesman Osama Qawassmeh said that the vote proves that the world “does not surrender to Israeli and American pressure and blackmail.”

The PLO’s Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) hailed the vote as a “big victory for Palestine and UNRWA and a stunning defeat and failure for the US and Israel.”

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