The United Kingdom has frozen roughly $30 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority over concerns that taxpayer money is being used to pay the salaries of Palestinian terrorists, The Sun reported Friday.
The move comes after an investigative report published in the Mail on Sunday in March and another released by the Overseas Development Institute think-tank in June found that British aid money was used to encourage Palestinian terrorism, bringing media attention to the practice and spurring parliamentarians to call on the government to take action.
The Department for International Development has frozen the funds, which amount to around one-third of the UK’s yearly aid to the PA, while the government investigates the accusations. International Development Secretary Priti Patel has called for a review of the PA’s role in paying salaries to terrorists who are convicted by Israeli courts, or to families of terrorists who died while carrying out attacks.
“We are not stopping for the Palestinian Authority overall, just delaying it to a date when we know our money won’t be going to people who do nothing in return for it,” a source in the British Foreign Ministry told The Sun.
While PA President Mahmoud Abbas does not deny that his government pays salaries to terrorists and their families, the PA claims that the funds come from the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), not its own budget. However, Yigal Carmon, president and founder of the Middle East Media Research Institute, told Congress in July that in order to mislead donor countries who were pressuring the PA to stop rewarding terrorism, the PA transferred the role of distribution of money from a ministry in the PA to a commission in the PLO in 2014. He added that the PA is still the source of the funding, and that the official overseeing the payments remains the same. (Palestinian Media Watch also reported that the money is still controlled by the same officials and comes from the PA’s budget, albeit indirectly.)
In August, the UK suspended donations to the charity World Vision after Israel arrested the director of the group’s Gaza branch, who confessed to funneling millions of dollars to the terrorist group Hamas. (Similarly, Australia and Germany have suspended their donations to World Vision in the wake of the revelations, while Germany’s Foreign Ministry acknowledged last month that its aid money to the PA is likely being used to provide funds to terrorists and their families.)
The UK’s decision to partially freeze aid to the PA pending review was praised by representatives of Britain’s Jewish community. “We do not take issue with the British Government supporting genuine development in the Palestinian territories,” Richard Verber, the senior vice president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said in a statement. “However, we have long been deeply concerned by the Department for International Development’s assertion that British tax money categorically does not fund terrorism and incitement. We welcome this move and hope that a robust and thorough investigation will be carried out. We would also like to thank the Members of Parliament and media organizations who have echoed our concerns with increasing volume over the past few months.”
In its March report, the Mail on Sunday named several convicted killers who were receiving salaries from the PA. These include Amjad and Hakim Awad, cousins who in 2011 massacred five members of the Fogel family — parents Ehud and Ruth Fogel, 11-year-old Yoav, four-year-old Elad, and three-month-old Hadas — in their West Bank home. Amjad alone may have received nearly $23,000, according to estimates. (In 2012, PA television praised the cousins as “heroes.”)
Another terrorist on the PA’s payroll is veteran Hamas bomb-maker Abdallah Barghouti. Barghouti is serving 67 life sentences in an Israeli jail over his role in numerous bombings, including at the Hebrew University cafeteria in 2002, the Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem in 2001, and a Rishon Lezion nightclub in 2002, which killed 66 people. He is believed to have received over $150,000 for his efforts.
A report about the practice last year in The Jerusalem Post observed that since the sums paid are based on the length of the terrorists’ sentences, “the more gruesome the terrorism, the more money will be paid.”
Critics have long called for greater transparency in the distribution of foreign aid payment to Palestinians, who are the largest per capita recipients of international development aid in the world. A Global Humanitarian Assistance report cited by Israeli MK Tzipi Hotovely in The Wall Street Journal in January found that Palestinians received $793 million in international aid in 2013, amounting to $176 for each Palestinian. That same year, Syrians were given $106 in development assistance per capita, while eight of the remaining top ten recipients — Sudan, South Sudan, Jordan, Lebanon, Somalia, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo — received, on average, $15.30 per capita. Foreign aid amounted to about a quarter of the PA’s entire budget in 2012, Hotovely noted.
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