Starting with the upcoming school year, the schools will fall under the jurisdiction of Israel’s Education Ministry and will be run by the Jerusalem municipality.
UNRWA was initially established in 1949 to assist tens of thousands of Arab refugees following Israel’s War of Independence. Palestinians are the only refugee population in the world supported by their own UN body.
The decision was reportedly reached last month after US President Donald Trump announced that the United States would cease funding the agency. The United States had been providing UNRWA with nearly $300 million, about 30 percent of the organization’s annual budget.
Former Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat has called for UNRWA to be expelled from Israel’s capital city due to accusations that it perpetuates conflict with Israel by inciting violence and perpetuating a refugee crisis, as opposed to improving life for the Arab residents living in Jerusalem for the past several decades.
“UNRWA’s treatment of residents as refugees is a barrier to their advancement and has no place,” Barkat said in September. “The time has come to transform them from refugees to residents and to rehabilitate them. It is possible. The removal of UNRWA will reduce incitement and terrorism, improve service to the residents, increase Israelization in east[ern] Jerusalem and contribute to [Israeli] unity and sovereignty in Jerusalem.”
Distrust in UNRWA crosses Israel’s political spectrum. Also in September, Yesh Atid opposition party leader Yair Lapid said that UNRWA is guilty of “providing cover to terror” and has “lost sight of its purpose” by servicing “5.5 million fake refugees.”
UNRWA, Lapid added, “perpetuates the big Palestinian lie, as if there are 5 million Palestinian refugees who have a ‘right of return.’ There aren’t 5 million refugees, and they don’t have a right of return.”