This article initially appeared in JewishNews, you can read it here.
The government has insisted “safeguards are in place” to ensure UK aid to pay Palestinian civil servants is not misused amid claims that funds could be helping pave the way for salaries to terrorists.
Labour Friend of Israel called for the Department for International Development to suspend payments following claims from Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), saying there was evidence the PA “effectively” continues to make such payments even though it may no longer directly do so.
The PA shut its Ministry of Prisoner affairs in 2014 and instead a PLO Commission of Prisoner Affairs was set up. But the PA raised the amount it transfers to the PLO by 481 million shekels to 775 million in 2015, according to the PA report, the same amount the PLO Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs needed to take on the responsibilities of the PA Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs, which is paying terrorists salaries.
Concern has previously been expressed that UK payments for civil servants could enable the PA to release alternative funds which in turn allow such payments to prisoners to proceed.
DfID minister Desmond Swayne, in response to LFI’s Joan Ryan, said: “UK aid to the PA is subject to rigorous scrutiny, with safeguards in place to ensure its being used for proper development purposes. Officials met the Ministry of Finance in May and the PA has reaffirmed that prisoner payments are fully administered by the Palestinian Liberation organization. We continue to lobby that the payments to prisoner’s families are more transparent and needs-based.”
He said UK funding “helps build Palestinian institutions and promotes economic growth so that any future state will be an effective partner for peace” and insisted the government’s commitment to Israel’s security is “absolute”. He reiterated that the department id carrying out a review of its programmes in the West Bank as part of an aid review.
Ryan said: “I am surprised that ministers have chosen to ignore the mounting evidence that while the PLO may now indeed by paying prisoner salaries, this is nothing but a financial sleight of hand and the PA remains, as it has always been, the ultimate paymaster.
“As the Department for International Development Select Committee warned the government two years ago, there is a real risk that the payment of UK aid to the PA enables it to release alternative funds which allow payments to convicted terrorists to continue. As I have suggested, that cannot be an acceptable use of British taxpayers’ money and the government should suspend aid to the PA while this issue is thoroughly investigated.”