WASHINGTON (Nov. 18)
Arab guerrilla control of virtually all refugee camps in Lebanon may affect the United States contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA). A $23.2 million UNRWA grant comes to the House floor for debate tomorrow.
Rep. Jonathan Bingham, a New York Democrat, indicated last week that he might attach a rider preventing funding for UNRWA until control of the Lebanese camps passed out of guerrilla hands. . Mr. Bingham said yesterday however that he was having second thoughts after talks with Administration officials and has not decided whether an amendment will be introduced.
At the United Nations yesterday, Israel’s Ambassador, Yosef Tekoah, maintained that “the UN cannot give assistance to persons engaged in warfare against a member state. When a refugee camp passes under the control of terror organizations, UNRWA is not entitled to continue…relief and services.”
Dr. Laurence Michelmore, commissioner general of UNRWA, conceded that “armed men” had taken over in some Lebanese refugee camps and that the Lebanese camp authorities disappeared. However, he said, as a result of talks with the Lebanese government, he “assumes”conditions will “soon change in the direction of the previous pattern” which would mean the return of the camps to Lebanese Government administration. Dr. Michelmore said he was “satisfied that the integrity of UNRWA operations has been maintained,” and that UNRWA assistance goes to bona fide refugees and not to guerrillas.
But other UNRWA sources admitted that some bona fide refugees might also be active members of commando units. According to reports from Lebanon, the Beirut Government was negotiating with guerrilla leaders for a system of dual sovereignty over the camps which could allow military training of the inmates.
The U.S. position appeared to be that the UN should not cut off aid to the Arab refugees under existing circumstances because that would lead to a “radicalization” of the refugees and a further aggravation of the problem. Israelis have argued that once commando groups controlled a camp, even if it returned officially to Lebanese administration, the “radicalization” process would go on and continued UN aid would be wrong and wasted.
The U.S. is the major contributor to UNRWA. But even without an American fund cut-off, Dr. Michelmore warned yesterday, the agency would have to cut down its present level of minimal services unless new sources of income are found by next spring. The feeling among diplomats is that UNRWA would take no measures to cut off aid to guerrilla-controlled camps unless there was pressure from the U.S. Congress or State Department. They said the agency would “eagerly accept” any Lebanese assurance that the situation would return to normal.