It is patently clear that whenever the Israeli-Gaza war ends, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), cannot remain as an impartial provider of assistance in Gaza. This puts Israel’s national security and even existence in grave jeopardy by Hamas which controls every aspect of Gazan life.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quoted as saying “UNRWA’s mission has to end…It has to be replaced by some organization or organizations that will do [that] job”, an argument Doug Friednash picked up in his New York Times article of February 4, 2024, that concluded that the slaughter that occurred on October 7th “reinforced Israel’s decades narrative about UNRWA that it is biased”.
Gaza is a narrow strip of land that has previously housed around 2 million Palestinians, with one of the world’s highest population densities of which half are under the age of 18. This population and area will require emergency as well as reconstruction assistance when the war ends – and hopefully, in a manner that provides Israel with vital security so that it will not again face very real dangers presented by its neighbors.
The question then becomes what options are there?
The public knows little about what is happening at the highest diplomatic levels, including at the current Qatar-mediated discussions in Paris between the warring parties. The outcome is still in doubt and we are waiting for an official announcement as this is being written. But without a doubt, one topic that should be considered as soon as possible is the need for Gazan humanitarian, emergency and reconstruction assistance.
Such an undertaking will require massive financial and technical aid. There are no guarantees of course but hopefully, these will enhance hopes for peace.
One possibility: The creation of an acceptable secretariat that would have authority to monitor any violations and take immediate action; this body needs to be overseen by a 5-6 committee of nations, comprised conceivably of the U.S., an OECD country, Saudi Arabia or the UAE, Israel, and a Palestinian Gaza representative..
Which institutions, what mechanism, can we learn from experience in the last century?
World War II aftermath: The war resulted in a major effort for the victors to provide assistance to displaced people. The United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) was created in 1943 principally by the U.S., to deal with the vast numbers of European refugees. It was subsequently dissolved in 1948, implicitly with remaining tasks assigned to various UN entities.
This end of UNRRA in 1948 marked a shift in post-war responsibility to newly created principally United Nations-based entities, to continue the work of UNRRA in war-torn regions.
For example, UNICEF was tasked to assist children and mothers in war-affected areas, including healthcare, nutrition, education, and social protection. In due course, it shifted its focus from emergency assistance to the long-term well-being of its beneficiary groups.
The World Health Organization (WHO) assumed UNRRA’s residual public health responsibilities in post-war environments, including infectious diseases, and the provision of essential medical support and care.
In the period after UNRRA’s closure, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) took on responsibilities to speed recovery in the aftermath of the war by providing food security and agricultural assistance. Subsequently, the World Food Programme (WFP) was created in 1960 to provide food assistance to the needy and became the largest UN organization in terms of funding.
In addition, the International Bank for Reconstruction was created in 1944 to finance the reconstruction of Europe devastated by World War II and subsequently joined in 1960 with the International Development Association (IDA) to assist developing countries, both generally known as the World Bank.
1948-1949 Critical Events: In 1948 the State of Israel’s independence was declared which provoked the Arab-Israeli War, as well as the expulsion – and flight — of Palestinians from the new State.
The Declaration of Independence was approved in May 1949, allowing Israel to become a full UN member. In December 1949 UNRWA was established (UN Resolution 194) to carry out relief and works programs for the Palestinians and it began operations in 1950. UNRWA is headed by a Commissioner General and has an Advisory Commission, headquarters as well as field offices (more detailed UNRWA information can be found here)
In the years since notwithstanding UNWRA’s formal establishment documents, its organizational structure, objectives, and even initial legitimate intentions, it was not able to contain Hamas infections in its programs, localities, and in the composition and attitudes of some of its staff. And of late, following Israeli allegations that a dozen or so UNWRA employees took part in the October 7 attack – allegations that have led to a pause in US and other country funding of UNWRA as investigations by the UN are pursued -, serious questions have arisen about UNWRA’s legitimacy or indeed its actual purpose.
What might be another option?
When the guns are silenced, there will have to be some form of Palestinian governing body, most likely, and inevitably, a Palestinian State. Taking a page from the period after UNRRA ended, the parties could look to separate independent entities to handle the heavy tasks for the future, conceivably relying on United Nations technical organizations mentioned above—and others, the Bretton Woods organizations, and/or regional financing organizations such as the Islamic Development Bank.
Hopefully, some international outfit would take on the post-Israeli-Gaza War emergency and reconstruction. Coordinated by a carefully selected secretariat that would ensure no abuses – one with sharp teeth and UN support that would ensure it has broad legitimacy in the international community – this outfit would take punitive action quickly when necessary.
The secretariat would be overseen by a 5-6 committee comprised of both Israelis and Palestinians and external country representatives from Western and Middle Eastern countries. It might – just might — end an endless conflict.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by the authors are their own, not those of Impakter.com — In the Featured Photo: image featured in a call for peace made by PRINCE EL HASSAN BIN TALAL of Jordan, Wilson Center Org. (cc)