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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responds during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Feb. 14.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

The readout of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s meeting this week with Jordan’s King Abdullah II covered most of the bases you would expect to be covered in such a communiqué, all of it couched in earnest diplomatic language, with the obligatory nod to “the importance of renewing efforts toward a two-state solution to secure lasting peace” in the Middle East.

There was one glaring omission, however. The dispatch from the Prime Minister’s Office made no mention of UNRWA – the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. Yet, it is highly unlikely that UNRWA did not come up in Wednesday’s tête-à-tête between the two leaders. Before arriving in Ottawa, the King had publicly appealed to the agency’s largest donors, including Canada, to restore funding they suspended last month on the heels of allegations that 12 UNRWA employees participated in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel.

“Restrictions on vital relief aid and medical items are leading to inhumane conditions,” the Jordanian monarch declared at the White House, where he met U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday. “It is imperative that UNRWA receives the support it needs to carry out its mandate.”

The PMO’s omission of UNRWA in its readout of the King’s meeting with Mr. Trudeau likely had much to do with the awkward position in which the Liberal government finds itself on the issue. Its 2016 move to restore funding to UNRWA after the previous Conservative government cut it off was cheered by pro-Palestinian progressives. It has now upset them royally by turning its back on UNRWA amid the worst humanitarian crisis in Gaza in the agency’s 75-year existence.

Six of Canada’s largest unions, led by Unifor and the Public Service Alliance of Canada, wrote to Mr. Trudeau last week urging him to reverse his decision to suspend Canada’s contributions to UNRWA, saying it was “particularly cruel for large donor countries to deny this critical organization its funding at this time.” The group denounced the suspension of funding as “a highly disproportionate action.”

UNRWA officials have warned that the agency will run out of money to pay its workers by the end of the month. But a United Nations investigation into Israel’s allegations of UNRWA workers’ longstanding ties to Hamas and complicity in the Oct. 7 attack is not slated to be completed until late April. And UNRWA insists no other humanitarian organization could fill the void left by the cessation of its operations in Gaza, the West Bank, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.

For King Abdullah, restoring funding to UNRWA is critical to ensuring his own country’s economic and political stability. More than 2.3 million Palestinian refugees – descendants of those who fled their homes after Israel’s creation in 1948 – live in Jordan. They depend on UNRWA for food, shelter, schools and health services. The King almost certainly reminded Mr. Trudeau of that.

Alas, the investigation into UNRWA is not off to a promising start. Critics have raised concerns about the choice of former French foreign affairs minister Catherine Colonna to lead the inquiry after she called UNRWA “more useful than ever” in a Jan. 13 post on X. The post was in response to one from UNRWA head Philippe Lazzarini – just after Ms. Colonna’s ouster by French President Emmanuel Macron in a major cabinet shuffle – thanking her for her commitment to the agency while she served as France’s top diplomat.

Last week, after Israel Defence Forces officials allowed Western journalists to tour Hamas tunnels the IDF had discovered under UNRWA’s headquarters in Gaza City, Mr. Lazzarini responded on X: “UNRWA is a human development and humanitarian organization that does not have the military and security expertise nor the capacity to undertake inspections of what is or might be under its premises.” But his suggestion that UNRWA was unaware of the tunnels stretched credulity.

Israel now appears determined to permanently expel UNRWA from Gaza when the war is over. It sees the agency as an adversary because it perpetuates the self-conception of the 5.9 million Palestinians who rely on it as refugees with a “right of return” to the homes their great-grandparents fled.

As Israel refuses to heed calls from Canada and other countries to suspend its planned ground offensive into the southern Gaza enclave of Rafah, where 1.3 million Palestinians have sought refuge from fighting in the north, the prospect of UNRWA being forced to end its humanitarian activities for lack of funding is distressing to contemplate. Such is the moral conundrum facing Mr. Biden and Mr. Trudeau, and the leaders of more than a dozen other donor countries that have all cut off funds.

Calls to reform – or replace – UNRWA should have been addressed years ago. It seems there could not be a worse time to try than now.

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