Netanyahu: I Told American UN Envoy Nikki Haley UNRWA Should Be Dismantled

Netanyahu's remarks to Likud ministers follow UN agency's statement that it found Hamas tunnel under two of its Gaza schools this month

PM Netanyahu meets with United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley
PM Netanyahu meets with United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley GPO / Amos Ben Gershom

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley last week that the UN agency supporting Palestinian refugees should be dismantled, the premier told a meeting of Likud ministers on Sunday.

"I told U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley that it's time to dismantle UNRWA," Netanyahu said, referring to the UN Relief and Works Agency by its acronym.

In a separate development, the UN agency said Friday it had discovered a Hamas "terror tunnel" passing under two of its schools in the Gaza Strip.

UNRWA condemned the existence of the tunnel in the Al-Maghazi regugee camp near the city of Dir al-Balah, saying it was "unacceptable that students and staff are placed at risk in such a way.

"The sanctity and neutrality of UN premises must be preserved at all times," the UN agency said.

Israel's ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, wrote a protest letter to the UN Security Council on Friday following the discovery of the tunnel. 

"This latest finding verifies once again that Hamas' cruelty knows no limits," Danon wrote. "This latest abuse is not only a flagrant misuse of UN premises and civilian infrastructure, but more importantly, is a direct threat to the safety and security of children."

In his remarks Sunday, Netanyahu accused Hamas of carrying out "a double war crime" by attacking innocent civilians and "using children as a human shield." The premier said he instructed the Foreign Ministry to lodge a formal complaint against the group with the Security Council.

Netanyahu said there is "a lot of incitement against Israelis" in the UN Relief and Works Agency. He accused the agency of "perpetuating the Palestinians refugee problem" instead of solving it.

UNRWA should be dismantled and reincorporated in other UN agencies, Netanyahu added.

The entrance to a UN school at the Al-Maghazi refugee camp, located in the center of the Gaza Strip, June 10, 2017.
MAHMUD HAMS/AFP

The agency, whose full name is the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, has been funded almost exclusively by voluntary donations from UN member states since its formation in 1949. Israeli officials have long privately believed it should be dismantled.

Haley, an outspoken critic of the UN's stance on Israel, met with Netanyahu in Jerusalem last Wednesday. At their meeting, Haley accused the UN of "bullying" Israel.

"If there's anything I have no patience for, it's bullies," Haley told Netanyahu, "and the UN was being such a bully to Israel because they could."

At their meeting, Netanyahu thanked the U.S. envoy for "standing up for Israel" and "standing up for the truth." He added that Israel is "glad to see the fruits of your efforts."

Haley came to Israel after addressing the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva last Tuesday. She also met with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.