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UK Limits Aid to Palestinians Following Terror Financing Scandal

The United Kingdom issued new guidelines on Friday limiting the foreign aid it gives to the Palestinian Authority following reports that the money was being used to pay salaries to terrorists and their families.

The UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) announced that the Palestinian Authority will continue to receive British aid money “in order to maintain stability, provide vital services and build and strengthen the institutions needed for a viable two-state solution.” However, “key changes” have been made regarding how and to whom the money will be distributed.

1. UK support will now focus solely on 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.

2. UK funds will no longer be used to support the salaries of Palestinian Authority public servants in Gaza who have not been able to work.

3. The UK 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.

According to the FCO, Palestinian aid will now be directed through the European Union’s PEGASE mechanism (Palestinian-European Socio-Economic Management Assistance Mechanism), which will provide a list of qualified individuals limited to the health and education sectors. Those on the vetted list will be “checked by independent auditors” for risk factors including terror financing.

The move comes on the heels of an investigative report published in the Mail on Sunday in March and another released by the Overseas Development Institute think-tank in June, which found that British aid money was used to encourage Palestinian terrorism. The controversy prompted the UK government to suspend aid payments to the PA in October.

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.)

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.

[Photo: Images Money / Flickr ]