Nir Barkat
Nir BarkatYonatan Sindel/Flash90

Economy Minister Nir Barkat (Likud) is advancing legislation against the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). According to Israel Hayom, the legislation was originally proposed in a previous Knesset, and has been reintroduced by several MKs in the current one for accelerated legislative process.

The new legislation states: “The UNRWA will not operate any facility, provide any service, or carry out any activity, directly or indirectly, within the sovereign territory of Israel.”

Minister Barkat commented: “It is unthinkable that when the world has begun to boycott UNRWA, the state of Israel will continue to allow it to operate from Jerusalem, our capital."

"The proposed law, which I presented to the previous Knesset as well, will put an end to the absurd operations of the UNRWA in Jerusalem. The organization took part in the October 7th massacre, and must not continue to exist in Israel, and certainly not in Jerusalem, our capital.”

Major-General Ghassan Alian, Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), has told US government officials that at this stage, there is no alternative for UNRWA's activities in the Gaza Strip," Israel Hayom reported.

Alian is currently in the US, and has been meeting, among others, with US government officials dealing with the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

According to the report, he explained in the meetings that Israel's position is that UNRWA should be replaced, and that an intensive and quick plan should be prepared to bring alternative aid organizations into Gaza.

Alian also emphasized that alternatives to UNRWA can be found, including among UN agencies. At this stage, however, there is no other body which is able to distribute aid in Gaza, and therefore there is currently no alternative to working with UNRWA.

At the same time, COGAT has harshly criticized UNRWA for its slowness in distributing the aid brought into Gaza by Israel.

Since the start of the war, over 10,000 aid trucks have brought supplies to Gaza.

Israel Hayom also reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has instructed IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi to put together an alternative for UNRWA.

UNRWA has come under fire recently for its close ties to Hamas - 10% of UNRWA employees in Gaza are affiliated with either Hamas or Islamic Jihad - and the active involvement of at least 12 UNRWA employees in the October 7 massacre.

On Tuesday, AFP reported that the UN's coordinator for Gaza aid, Sigrid Kaag, claimed that nothing can "replace or substitute" UNRWA.

"There is no way that any organization can replace or substitute (the) tremendous capacity, the fabric of UNRWA -- (their) ability and their knowledge of the population in Gaza," Kaag was quoted as having said.

On Wednesday, Kan Reshet Bet reported that a delegation led by Alian held a series of meeting with senior officials in the US government and military, stressing that UNRWA is a problem in Gaza and in general - and does not provide solutions.

According to the report, the trip was made with the goal of bringing the US and other countries to increase pressure on UNRWA and push for its dismantlement or replacement.

A Tuesday night briefing in Congress, attended by the Israeli delegation, discussed the need to find alternative international organizations to offer the services that UNRWA currently provides to Gazan refugees.

One source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Axios, "The point he was trying to make was ... we want there to be humanitarian aid, but UNRWA is a problem. There need to be alternatives, there are alternatives already, and those are the alternatives that should be used."

A COGAT spokesperson told Israel Hayom: "Any position presented by security sources in the US was approved by the security echelon ad is in line with the political echelon."