The Ministry of Finance, under Minister Bezalel Smotrich, has proposed decrees to remove the UN Relief Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) from the list of UN agencies and international entities entitled to tax benefits. These decrees would exclude UNRWA from exemptions on import duties, purchase taxes, and VAT, as well as VAT and excise taxes on gasoline. The decree is currently under review by the ministries of foreign affairs and justice, as well as the national security headquarters.
According to sources close to the ministry of finance, this proposal was made due to concerns about the transparency and accountability of UNRWA’s operations in Israel. The agency has been criticized in recent years for its close ties with Hamas and its support for Palestinian resistance movements in Israel. Additionally, there have been allegations that UNRWA has been misusing funds intended for humanitarian assistance in Gaza.
The ministry of finance has also expressed concerns about the financial burden that tax breaks for international organizations like UNRWA place on Israeli taxpayers. By removing UNRWA from the list of entities entitled to tax exemptions, the government hopes to reduce this burden and free up resources for other important social programs in Israel.
It is unclear when these decrees will be finalized or implemented, but sources close to the ministry of finance suggest that they are likely to face opposition from both domestic and international actors who view UNRWA’s work as crucial for maintaining peace and stability in the Middle East region. Nonetheless, if approved by all relevant authorities, these decreases could have significant implications for both Israel and its relations with other countries in the region.