Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat at a news conference in the city
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat at a news conference in the city Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat announced on Monday that he intends to expel the UNRWA organization from Jerusalem and replace the services it provides with those of the municipality

Since 1965, the organization has been responsible for about 30,000 residents in the Shuafat refugee camp and provides them with municipal services as well as caring for their education and welfare.

Speaking at a Hadashot conference, Barkat said that "UNRWA is a foreign and unnecessary entity that has failed miserably, and I intend to expel it from Jerusalem. Only one percent of the students choose to teach their children in their schools and the incitement there is rising."

According to Barkat, "the cleanliness of their responsibility is deteriorating, their welfare services do not give hope to the residents, and their satisfaction is very low. In every parameter, UNRWA does not function and fails."

Barkat added that he has "instructed the municipality's professional staff to prepare a work plan that I will present to the prime minister for the evacuation of UNRWA from Jerusalem."

"We will close their schools and allow students to hope and grow up in the existing schools throughout the city. Their failures in our programs that combine expenditure from poverty and employment, and replace the poor cleaning services with the expansion of municipal cleaning services that have been upgraded."

The mayor said that rather than rehabilitating East Jerusalem's Arab population, UNRWA had a consistent track record of causing the residents relationship with the State of Israel to deteriorate.

"UNRWA's approach to the residents as refugees is a barrier to their advancement and no longer has a place," alleged Barket. "The time has come to replace the reference from refugees to residents and rehabilitate them. It is possible. The removal of UNRWA will reduce incitement and terrorism, improve service to the residents, increase Israeliization in East Jerusalem and contribute to its unity."

Barkat's announcement comes after the US State Department officially announced on Friday that the United States is ending its funding to UNRWA. Shortly before the State Department announcement, senior officials in the Prime Minister's Office said that Israel supports the American move to stop funding for UNRWA but believes that a way must be found to transfer the money to other organizations or parties so that they can be used properly.

The US donated $370 million to the agency in 2017 and $355 million in 2016.

UNRWA has been criticized for its connections to terrorist organizations, for the incitement in its schools, and for perpetuating and enlarging the Arab refugee issue for decades. During the 2014 counterterrorism Operation Protective Edge, Hamas rockets were discovered inside a school building run by UNRWA.

Likewise, explosives at a booby-trapped UNRWA clinic detonated, killing three IDF soldiers. Aside from the massive amounts of explosives hidden in the walls of the clinic, it was revealed that it stood on top of dozens of terror tunnels, showing how UNRWA is closely embedded with Hamas.