The United Nations Relief and Works Agency may harm Israeli interests in two major ways (its anti-Zionism behavior and its keeping Palestinians in a perpetual refugee status), close observers have long known that the government of Israel prefers to keep UNRWA funding in place rather than face possible disruption.
This knowledge was, however, abstract. No one had cut funding, so one did not know what exactly the Israeli response would be.
Well, now it has happened and Jerusalem did protest, as we learn from Lee Berthiaume, "Israel asked Canada to reverse decision on funding for UN Palestinian refugee agency," in Embassy.
Canadian taxpayers have forked over moneys to UNRWA since 1950, amounting to C$10-15 million annually of late. In 2009, however, Ottawa ended this funding and, for reasons of efficiency, redirected all funds to emergency needs in the West Bank and Gaza, primarily nutritional.
For more than a year, many have suspected that the Harper government's decision to stop providing direct budgetary support to the UN agency responsible for helping Palestinian refugees in the Middle East was made at the behest of Israel. However, newly released CIDA [Canadian International Development Agency] documents appear to turn that notion on its head as they show Israel was one of a number of countries actively lobbying Canada to reverse its decision last year to focus its funding on emergency food aid.
"The announcement of this targeted funding has provoked a number of reactions from countries in the region," reads a document dated Aug. 24, 2010, "and in discussions with the US, Israel and the UN Secretary General, Canada has been asked to resume funding the General Fund."
Under pressure, the Harper government has returned to funding UNRWA, sending C$5 million to the West Bank and $10 million to Gaza.
Comment: That the Israeli government, and specifically the Ministry of Defense's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories wish to continue payments to UNRWA points to its stunningly short-term vision and fits my larger argument that Israel's leaders are adrift, dealing with crises as they arise, lacking strategic goals. (July 6, 2011)
Sep. 15, 2011 update: It's worth noting that the Government of Israel also advocates for aid to the Palestinian Authority. It is urging the international community to continue aid to the Palestinians just as U.S. lawmakers are contemplating a cutoff of about $500 million in annual aid if the Palestinians press for statehood at the United Nations. An Israeli government website on Thursday carried a report saying the Palestinian Authority already faced economic and fiscal woes, in part due to a decline in donor aid.
Israel calls for ongoing international support for the PA budget and development projects that will contribute to the growth of a vibrant private sector, which will provide the PA an expanded base for generating internal revenue. The economic slowdown can be attributed largely to the fiscal crisis currently plaguing the PA, which is due primarily to a decline in donor aid, and the inability to obtain loans from the banking system to finance the shortfall.