Israel’s Ambassador this week alleged UK funding is “enabling” the Palestinians to make payments to terrorists, amid fears about money being sent to a government featuring Hamas, writes Justin Cohen.
Daniel Taub’s claims came in an exclusive interview with the Jewish News as international financial support for the Palestinian Authority came under the spotlight following a reconciliation deal between Hamas and Fatah.
But even before last week’s deal, which foresees the formation of a unity Government within weeks, Israel’s supporters have long expressed concerns over alleged payments paid by the PA to convicted terrorists.
Palestinian Media Watch – which monitors media and statements from Gaza and the West Bank – claims that monthly salaries to the tune of up to £2,075 are paid to those jailed for “resisting the occupation”. Further funds allegedly go to their spouses and children while grants of up to tens of thousands of pounds can be made when the prisoners are released.
While there is no suggestion that British taxpayer funds have been going directly to terrorists, Israel’s supporters have long argued that aid – 40 percent of all Palestinian spending – swells its coffers to ensure it has the capacity to make such payments.
“It’s not just an insult to the British taxpayer,” said Taub (pictured, left) , reacting to a call from Tory MP Gerald Howarth for British aid to be halted altogether until such payments stop. “To support and reward individuals solely on the basis they’ve engaged in murderous attacks against civilians has to be seen as a totally unacceptable policy.
“We have raised our serious concerns that UK funding is effectively enabling PA payments to murderous terrorists.
“The Hamas-Fatah deal aggravates these concerns and raises the larger issue of transferring funds to a government which includes an organisation defined by the UK, US and EU as a terrorist group.”
The US administration signaled this week it would halt funding to the Palestinians if Hamas became part of the Government without renouncing violence. But London is yet to issue such a warning.
A spokesman for the Department for International Development said: “No UK aid money goes to Hamas. UK and EU legislation on terrorist financing stipulates that Hamas does not derive any financial benefit.”
On the issue of the alleged payments to terrorists, he added: “UK taxpayer funds do not pay for Palestinian prisoners. British funding to the Palestinian Authority is used for the sole purpose of paying the salaries of civil servants, who are responsible for providing health, education and other essential services, including security. The process is subject to independent audit.”
Alistair Burt MP, who was Britain’s minister for the Middle East when concerns over the payments surfaced, said: “Representations were made to Dfid and I believe they have tightened their procedures to ensure payments are not being made to reward violence.”
Giving his first reaction since the suspension of the nine-month peace process last Thursday, Taub insisted it was “inconceivable” that Israel could be expected to continue talks after President Abbas “embraced” an organisation classified as a terror group by the UK, EU and America.
He said: “The Palestinians have not just rejected American proposals but they’ve fundamentally abrogated understandings by going to international organisations to upgrade their status. We’ve tried to keep the process going, but we’ve now entered an arena in which the Palestinians are embracing an organisation which is committed to our destruction.”
He stressed, however, that talks had been suspended rather than stopped “in the fervent hope Abu Mazen will wake up” and abandon the pact signed last week.
But he added: “Abbas’ behaviour over recent months is raising questions for people who’ve wanted to believe he is a genuine partner for peace.”
The Palestinian leader’s landmark comments on the Shoah this week – describing the Holocaust as “the most heinous crime in modern history” made that behaviour “all the more troubling. If this is genuinely somebody who recognises the Shoah as being such a heinous crime, how can he embrace an organisation that denies the historical fact of the Holocaust?”.
While claiming that those pushing the deligitimisation of Israel need no excuse, he said: “There will be efforts to divert attention away from Palestinian responsibility for the breakdown of talks. That may take the form of allegations against Israel or increased attempts at boycott activity.”