MPs weigh value of aid to Palestinians

By Marcus Dysch, January 30, 2014

A Parliamentary committee looking into the amount of aid Britain sends to the Palestinian territories and other Middle East recipients, has concluded the first stage of its investigation.

The International Development select committee received written evidence from 40 organisations, charities and officials.

British taxpayers contribute hundreds of millions of pounds of aid to be distributed annually by the United Nations and other relief organisations working in the region.

Around £15.5 million is sent to the UNRWA project supporting Palestinian refugees, in addition to the Department for International Development financing the Palestinian Authority to the tune of £94m in the 2013-14 financial year.

The money goes towards education, poverty relief, governance, health provisions and wealth creation.

The select committee’s inquiry is considering the “effectiveness” of that financial programme, and whether the department is “focusing on the right sectors and working with the right organisations”.

It is also assessing whether the funding for the PA “aids the twin goals of state building and achieving a negotiated peace”.

It will also look at the viability of funding projects run by joint Israeli-Palestinian groups, and the possibility of working with Mashav, Israel’s agency for international development co-operation.

Documents published last week show the evidence provided by a range of groups from the left and right, from Israel and the Palestinian territories, and from across Britain.

Among those offering advice were Trade Union Friends of Israel, Rabbis for Human Rights, Shaare Zedek UK, Friends of Al-Aqsa and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Former Knesset member Einat Wilf said in her evidence that the British government’s approach to aid was “preposterous”, and favoured Palestinians over Israeli groups.

The select committee — under the chairmanship of Sir Malcolm Bruce MP — is expected to publish its findings later in the year.

Last updated: 11:45pm, January 30 2014