I do appreciate concerns which have been raised about UK aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) and can assure you that the Government strongly condemns all forms of violence and incitement to violence. Both the PA and the Government of Israel need to prepare their populations for peaceful coexistence, including by promoting a more positive portrayal of each other. I know the Government shares concerns about the textbook content revealed in the IMPACT-SE report into the PA’s new curriculum. A thorough UK review of textbook content will be carried out this year, and the PA has agreed to take account of its findings.
The Government has also been very clear that the UK does not fund Palestinian terrorism and Palestinian terrorists do not receive UK aid money. Our support for the PA is only used to pay the salaries of health and education public sector workers on a vetted list. This enables the delivery basic services and helps around 25,000 young Palestinians go to school each year. The vetting process covers a large number of different risk categories including terrorism financing, and checks that all UK funds reach the intended beneficiaries.
The UK’s financial aid to the PA is channelled directly through the EU’s PEGASE mechanism. The system ensures that any funds transferred from contributing donors into a dedicated PEGASE sub-account of the PA’s Single Treasury Account are used for the payment of salaries of eligible beneficiaries on the PEGASE vetted list. The list of beneficiaries is subject to a vetting process that includes screening against international and ad hoc sanctions lists, covering a large number of different risk categories including terrorism financing. The verification processes are conducted in very close collaboration with internationally recognised independent audit companies.
I understand that reports of the UK’s financial aid programmes in the OPTs between 2010 and 2015 were withheld in line with an exemption in the Freedom of Information Act relating to information prejudicing international relations. The decision was not taken lightly, but officials judged that releasing the reports would likely damage the UK’s relationship with the PA. DFID depends on maintaining good relationships with our international partners in order to conduct its work.
The UK continues to support a two-state solution that would see a safe and secure Israel living alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian state. By building strong institutions to help create a Palestinian government, as well as continuing to help them to educate a generation of young people and provide vital health services, our support for the PA is essential for promoting stability and reducing poverty.