Australia ends direct aid to Palestinian Authority

Australia allocated A$43 million for humanitarian assistance in the region for the current fiscal year, which began on July 1. Above, children play in the Palestinian village of Susya, southeast of Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank in this 2016 photo. (AFP)
Updated 02 July 2018
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Australia ends direct aid to Palestinian Authority

  • Australia had cut funding to the World Bank’s Multi-Donor Trust Fund for the Palestinian Recovery and Development Program
  • Australia allocated A$43 million for humanitarian assistance in the region for the current fiscal year, which began on July 1

CANBERRA, Australia: Australia said Monday that it has ended direct aid to the Palestinian Authority because Australian donations could increase the self-governing body’s capacity to pay Palestinians convicted of politically motivated violence.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Australia had cut funding to the World Bank’s Multi-Donor Trust Fund for the Palestinian Recovery and Development Program after writing to the Palestinian Authority in late May seeking assurance that Australian funding was not going to Palestinian criminals.
“I am confident that previous Australian funding to the PA through the World Bank has been used as intended. However, I am concerned that in providing funds for this aspect of the PA’s operations there is an opportunity for it to use its own budget to (fund) activities that Australia would never support,” Bishop said in a statement.
“Any assistance provided by the Palestine Liberation Organization to those convicted of politically motivated violence is an affront to Australian values and undermines the prospect of meaningful peace between Israel and the Palestinians,” she added.
Australia’s A$10 million ($7.4 million) donation to the trust fund will now be re-routed to the United Nations’ Humanitarian Fund for the Palestinian Territories which provides vulnerable Palestinians with health care, food, water, improved sanitation and shelter.
Australia allocated A$43 million for humanitarian assistance in the region for the current fiscal year, which began on July 1.
In March, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the US government for passing a law that suspended some financial aid to the Palestinians over the stipends paid to families of Palestinians killed or jailed in fighting with Israel.
The Taylor Force Act, named after an American killed in Israel by a Palestinian in 2016, was folded into a $1.3 trillion spending bill signed by President Donald Trump.
Netanyahu called the law a “powerful signal by the US that changes the rules” by cutting “hundreds of millions of dollars for the Palestinian Authority that they invest in encouraging terrorism.”
The Palestinians say the families are victims of violence. Palestinian official Nabil Abu Rdeneh condemned the law, saying it doesn’t “allow for the creation of an atmosphere conducive to peace.”
Australian government lawmaker Eric Abetz welcomed Bishop’s stance.
“Minister Bishop’s strong and decisive decision today to ensure that the Palestinian Authority can no longer use our aid to free up money in its budget for state-promoted terrorism is very positive,” Abetz said.
“It is vital that we ensure that our foreign aid is not being spent on, or making money available for, the promotion of terrorism and so funneling our aid to the Palestinian Territories through the United Nations will provide greater assurance that the Palestinian Authority’s clever accounting cannot occur,” he added.


Beirut praises ‘progress’ on maritime border dispute

Updated 21 May 2019
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Beirut praises ‘progress’ on maritime border dispute

  • Israel and Lebanon both claim ownership of an 860-square-kilometer area of the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Lebanon insists that the area lies within its economic zone and refuses to give up a single part of it

BEIRUT: Lebanon has hinted that progress is being made in efforts to resolve its maritime border dispute with Israel following the return of a US mediator from talks with Israeli officials.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Satterfield returned to Lebanon following talks in Israel where he outlined Lebanese demands regarding the disputed area and the mechanism to reach a settlement.

The US mediator has signaled a new push to resolve the dispute after meetings with both Lebanese and Israeli officials.

Israel and Lebanon both claim ownership of an 860-square-kilometer area of the Mediterranean Sea. Lebanon hopes to begin offshore oil and gas production in the offshore Block 9 as it grapples with an economic crisis.

A source close to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who met with Satterfield on Monday after his return to Lebanon, told Arab News that “there is progress in the efforts, but the discussion is not yet over.” He did not provide further details.

Sources close to the Lebanese presidency confirmed that Lebanon is counting on the US to help solve the demarcation dispute and would like to accelerate the process to allow exploration for oil and gas to begin in the disputed area.

Companies that will handle the exploration require stability in the area before they start working, the sources said.

Previous efforts by Satterfield to end the dispute failed in 2012 and again last year after Lebanon rejected a proposal by US diplomat Frederick Hoff that offered 65 percent of the disputed area to Lebanon and 35 percent to Israel. Lebanon insisted that the area lies within its economic zone and refused to give up a single part of it.

Satterfield has acknowledged Lebanon’s ownership of around 500 sq km of the disputed 850 sq km area.

Lebanon renewed its commitment to a mechanism for setting the negotiations in motion, including the formation of a tripartite committee with representatives of Lebanon, Israel and the UN, in addition to the participation of the US mediator. Beirut also repeated its refusal to negotiate directly with Israel.

Two months ago, Lebanon launched a marine environmental survey in blocks 4 and 9 in Lebanese waters to allow a consortium of French, Italian and Russian companies to begin oil and gas exploration in the area.