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Israel challenges U.N. on Palestinian refugees

JTA

December 8, 2011 | 11:10 am

Daniel Ayalon in 2005. Photo by Robert D. Ward

Daniel Ayalon in 2005. Photo by Robert D. Ward

Israel questioned the use of the U.N. aid agency created exclusively for Palestinian refugees.

Addressing the United Nations in Geneva, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon argued Thursday against the two-tier system whereby Arabs displaced by the fighting in British Mandatory Palestine around the creation of the Jewish state in 1948, and their descendants, are tended to by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, while other refugees must look collectively to the U.N High Commissioner for Refugees.

Israel has long argued that UNRWA perpetuates the conflict with the Palestinians, who insist on a “right of return” for their refugees to land now in Israel, whereas UNHCR has often worked to resettle its wards.

“While the UNHCR has found durable solutions for tens of millions of refugees, the agency created specifically for the Palestinian context, UNRWA, has found durable solutions for no one,” Ayalon said at the conference, according to a transcript circulated by his office.

“This has meant that a peaceful solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians remains further away. This is morally and politically unacceptable.”

Israel says Palestinian refugees should resettle in a future Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, or elsewhere. Israelis also have called on the international community to give consideration to the hundreds of thousands of Jews from Arab countries who were dispossessed during the 1948 war and were mostly taken in by Israel.

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