An IDF graphic showing a Hamas base embedded in an UNRWA compound

In a landmark decision reflecting the deepening distrust of international bodies perceived as biased against Israel, the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee has unanimously approved a bill to designate the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) as a terrorist organization. This significant move comes in the wake of mounting anger and security concerns following the horrific events of October 7. The bill is slated for its first reading in the Knesset plenum next week.

The Push for Accountability

Knesset member Yulia Malinovsky, from the Israel Beiteinu party, spearheaded the initiative, condemning UNRWA’s alleged complicity in terror activities. "UNRWA's crimes on October 7 and its collaboration with terrorist organizations are beyond forgiveness. An organization whose employees masquerade as social workers, doctors, and teachers by day, and transform into terrorists by night, must be recognized for what it truly is—a terrorist organization," Malinovsky declared emphatically.

Legislative Details and Implications

The committee’s approval comes amid widespread public outcry against UNRWA, which many Israelis view as a facilitator of terrorism. This sentiment has been particularly intense following the recent attack and the ongoing conflict.

Three critical bills are at the heart of this legislative push:

  1. Prohibition of UNRWA Operations: Proposed by Likud MK Boaz Bismuth, this bill aims to ban UNRWA from operating within Israeli territory, effectively eliminating its presence in East Jerusalem. This proposal seeks to dismantle any operational foothold UNRWA has within Israel's jurisdiction.
  2. Designation as a Terrorist Organization: Promoted by Yisrael Beytenu MK Yulia Malinovsky, this bill would officially brand UNRWA as a terrorist organization, compelling Israel to sever all ties with the agency. This classification would have profound implications for international relations and aid distribution.
  3. Revocation of Legal Immunities: A merged proposal from Yesh Atid MK Ron Katz and Likud lawmaker Dan Illouz, this bill aims to strip UNRWA personnel of the legal immunities and privileges typically granted to United Nations staff in Israel. These include exemptions from property taxes, thereby subjecting them to the same legal standards as other entities.

Urgent National Security Measure

Following the committee vote, Dan Illouz underscored the critical nature of the legislation: "This bill will enable us to enforce the law against UNRWA. It is an essential measure for our national security. After the atrocities of October 7, it is impossible to proceed as if nothing has changed."

Controversial Role of UNRWA

UNRWA, established to provide education, health care, and humanitarian aid to millions of Palestinians across Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, has long been a subject of controversy. Israel accuses the agency of harboring individuals with terrorist affiliations—alleging that approximately 10% of its Gaza staff have ties to terror groups. Furthermore, Israeli officials claim that educational materials used in UNRWA schools incite hatred against Israel and glorify acts of terror.

A Pivotal Moment

As these bills advance to the Knesset plenum, their potential passage marks a pivotal moment in Israel's stance toward international organizations operating within its borders. The outcome could redefine the operational landscape for UNRWA and significantly impact the broader geopolitical dynamics of the region.

In the coming weeks, the Knesset will deliberate on these proposals, each designed to protect Israeli citizens and uphold national security in the face of evolving threats. This legislative action reflects Israel’s unwavering commitment to combating terrorism and ensuring the safety and sovereignty of the nation.

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