European Aid to Palestinians Breaches Quartet Policy

by Brad Nielson

6 June, 2006

On May 23, 2006 the Funding for Peace Coalition (FPC) provided an analysis of the published accounts of the Palestinian Authority for the three years from January 2003. The FPC noted that the practice of publishing the PA accounts on its Ministry of Finance website had been abruptly discontinued in January 2006.

Enquiries from journalists and European politicians followed. On 3rd June, the Palestinian Ministry of Finance published January, February and March accounts. Significantly, the breakdown of expenses and all of the data for March were posted only in Arabic.

The Arabic reports reveal that March 2006 reflected the second highest month of direct international aid transfers since the accounts began to be published in January 2003. Of the total of $115m, $42m was provided by the EU and $0.2m came from the World Bank. The balance was donated by Saudi Arabia ($42m, in addition to $15m transferred in January), Qatar ($14m), Oman ($7m) and Norway ($10m).

These reported transfers from the EU and the World Bank appear to have transgressed the statement by Middle East Quartet (the UN, EU, US, and Russia) of January 2006.

…the Quartet concluded that it was inevitable that future assistance to any new Government would be reviewed by donors against that Government's commitment to the principles of non-violence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the Road Map.

They are also a repudiation of the policy committed by Benita Ferrero-Waldner, European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy. She promised in February 2006 that

... the Quartet sent a clear message to Hamas and the Palestinian people on 30 January. Any future assistance will be considered against their government's commitment to the principles of non-violence, recognition of Israel and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the Roadmap.

The Palestinian leadership of all factions - President Abbas (Fatah), Prime Minister Haniyeh (Hamas) and others - has complained that the PA does not have enough money to meet its wage bill. Salaries had been withheld from the 160,000 employees for several months. On June 5, two days after the publication of the accounts revealed that there had been a large cash injection back in March, the PA began to release salaries to its employees.

It is time for international donors and the taxpayers who fund this generosity to demand appropriate accountability. Why were these contributions withheld from the Palestinian people? What were they used for?

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