Photo Credit: Nachi Eyal / TPS
The Untied Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) base in Jerusalem

The Swiss Foreign Ministry has announced that it has “decided to temporarily stop payments to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)” amid claims of misconduct among its top management.

The ministry said Tuesday that it was “informed of the situation by the agency’s commissioner-general, Pierre Krähenbühl” on Monday, according to SRF public radio, swissinfo.ch reported.

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Krähenbühl, a Swiss national, has been employed by UNRWA since 2014. He pledged “full cooperation” with the investigation, according to the report.

The UNRWA ethics office alleged that members of top management have abused their authority through nepotism, discrimination and sexual misconduct, in addition to accusing Krähenbühl of “claiming daily allowances despite being away from UNRWA headquarters in Jerusalem.”

Switzerland contributed approximately CHF20 million ($20 million) to the UNRWA budget for 2019. The agency’s annual budget totals $1.2 billion for the support of those who living in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Gaza, Judea and Samaria who fled from the 1948 and 1967 Arab-Israeli wars, and their descendants, who still claim “refugee” status more than half a century later.

A contributing factor to their status has to do with the fact that their so-called Arab “brethren” have continued to hold these people at arms’ length and refused throughout the generations to allow these immigrants citizenship in their host countries, despite having urged them to flee, promising them the move would be temporary once the Jews of Israel were “thrown into the sea.”

In 2018, Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis publicly criticized the role of UNRWA, saying in an interview published in Swiss media that as long as those who fled and their descendants continue to live in “refugee camps” with aid and protection provided by UNRWA, it would be impossible to make peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

“It is unrealistic that all of them can fulfil this dream. Yet the UNRWA keeps this dream alive,” Cassis said. “For a long time the UNRWA was the solution to this problem, but today it has become part of the problem. It supplies the ammunition to continue the conflict. By supporting the UNRWA, we keep the conflict alive. It’s a perverse logic.”

Cassis called for the integration of long-term “refugees” in their countries of residence, saying that instead of UNRWA schools and hospitals, Switzerland could support Jordanian facilities to promote integration of Palestinian refugees.

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