UK cracks down on Palestinian aid following three-month freeze

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UK cracks down on Palestinian aid following three-month freeze

Major changes in funding announced over concerns money was being used to pay salaries for convicted Palestinian terrorists.

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

A Palestinian demonstrator raises a knife, during clashes with Israeli police, in Shuafat refugee camp in Jerusalem,, Oct. 2015.  (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)
A Palestinian demonstrator raises a knife, during clashes with Israeli police, in Shuafat refugee camp in Jerusalem,, Oct. 2015. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

Britain has made major changes in funding Palestinians after a three-month freeze on part of its aid, over concerns that the money was being used to fund salaries for convicted Palestinian terrorists.

In October the Secretary of State for International Development, Priti Patel, ordered a review of the funding procedure and froze about a third of Britain’s aid to the Palestinians while the review, undertaken in close collaboration with the Foreign Office, was carried out.

This week, DIFD — the Department for International Development — announced that although Britain would continue to fund the Palestinian Authority, there would be certain crucial changes. In future, DIFD said, its aid would go “solely to vital health and education services, in order to meet the immediate needs of the Palestinian people and maximise value for money.

Funding will only go towards the salaries of health and education public servants on a vetted list”. Money from the UK “will no longer be used to support the salaries of Palestinian Authority public servants in Gaza who have not been able to work”.

And Britain “will assess fiscal and public financial management reforms that the Palestinian Authority will need to show progress against in order to secure full future payments from the UK”.DIFD says that UK support to the PA — up to £25 million this financial year `— will help to pay the salaries of up to 30,000 teachers, doctors, nurses, midwives and other essential health and education public servants on a vetted list.

“This will enable around 25,000 young Palestinians to get an education, provide up to 3,700 immunisations for children, and around 185,000 medical consultations annually.”

The payments to the PA will now be made through an EU system which is checked by independent auditors; payments are additionally checked through a strict vetting process which takes in a variety of different sanctions, including, says DIFD, “terrorism financing”.

Simon Johnson, Chief Executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, said: “We welcome this sensible move by the Department for International Development to concentrate aid where it is most needed. It must be robust in ensuring funds are used to help those in need, such as for health and education, and kept away from those who seek to use the money to cause harm.”

Conservative Friends of Israel Honorary President Lord Polak also welcomed DfID’s announcement, saying: “After years of campaigning against the Palestinian Authority’s abuse of international aid to fund the salaries of prisoners convicted of terror, today’s announcement is welcome news from DfID. With the redirection of aid to education and health, the ability of the Palestinian Authority to abuse this funding to reward terror is significantly reduced and the money will now go to those most in need.

“It is clear that the Secretary of State for International Development, Rt. Hon. Priti Patel MP, is taking concerns seriously, and it is now essential that DfID rigorously scrutinises the PA to ensure it is no longer misusing British taxpayers’ money. We also call on DfID to continue looking into allocating aid to vital coexistence projects which lay the groundwork for peace.”

Paul Charney, chairman of the Zionist Federation, welcomed the change in approach. He said: “The scandal of salaries for terrorists has been an issue that the Zionist Federation has campaigned on for a long time. Over the years, thousands of emails were sent to politicians – all of which were rebuffed by an apparently impenetrable shield of denial.

“Today’s dramatic shift in funding priorities means that finally DFID is acknowledging that there is a fundamental problem with the Palestinian Authority’s lack of accountability and support for violence. It remains to be seen if UK taxpayer money will make its way to the intended targets – doctors and teachers.

“But this is an important change in the UK’s attitude towards Palestinian aid, and we hope it will contribute to a change in the PA’s attitude as well.”

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