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Risch in Washington Times: Time to end UNRWA

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, this week published an op-ed in the Washington Times detailing why the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) need to be disbanded.

On the corruption of UNRWA:

Reports indicate that for years, UNRWA facilities, including schools, have served as havens for Hamas rockets and tunnels instead of vulnerable Palestinian children. Many UNRWA teachers have well-documented ties to Hamas and teach antisemitic and anti-Israel content at these schools, clearly violating UNRWA’s neutrality mandate. Thanks to UNRWA, generations of Palestinians have been taught to hate Israel.”

UNRWA has ceased to be effective, and worse, it violates the first principle of humanitarian aid: Do no harm. The costs of keeping UNRWA around far outweigh the benefits.”

On the Biden Administration’s failure to secure UNRWA reforms:

“As president, Donald Trump recognized UNRWA’s flaws and terminated funding, partially at my urging. Unfortunately, the Biden administration reversed his decision in 2021 and has since provided UNRWA with almost $1 billion. The administration wrongly argued it needed to resume UNRWA funding so the United States could “be at the table” to promote reforms.”

“What reforms? Nearly four years later, reforms are nonexistent, and UNRWA has plunged deeper into support for terrorism. I take no happiness in saying ‘I told you so.’”

On the path forward:

“The bottom line: UNRWA is beyond redemption. Disbanding the organization is the only solution.”

“A new organization should be established to support vulnerable Palestinians while ensuring funds do not promote extremism. It should be open to comprehensive financial audits conducted by a third party deemed acceptable by both Israel and the Palestinians to ensure independence and fiscal integrity.”

“At the same time, donors should require increased vetting of all organization employees operating in the region to ensure they do not have ties to a foreign terrorist organization, have not advocated or engaged in any terrorist activity, and have not supported anti-Israel or antisemitic rhetoric.”

“These are all reasonable expectations for U.S. taxpayer dollars. It’s past time we stop allowing the outrageous use of our money to fund or incite terrorism. This process must start now, not after the Gaza war. The sooner the international community pivots away from UNRWA, the better Palestinians and Israelis will be.”

You can read the full op-ed on the Washington Times website here.