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Our cash should go to projects promoting co-existence between Jews and Palestinians

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November 24, 2016 23:22

Last month, during a visit to Israel and Palestine, I spent a day in the West Bank. In Ramallah, we met representatives of the Palestinian Authority. It was, as a colleague suggested, one of the most depressing meetings they had ever experienced.

What was most troubling was the representatives' failure to acknowledge the PA's incitement of violence against Israeli civilians or even recognise the scale of that violence.

British ministers assure me that they are bringing pressure to bear. It is clearly not working. If the PA cannot even acknowledge the problem, there's little chance it will tackle it.

In February, I asked David Cameron to consider linking funding the PA to an immediate cessation of incitement and proposed a inquiry into how British aid is best spent in Israel-Palestine. I am sorry that he has chosen not to take up my suggestions and hope he will think again.

Some of our aid to the PA - focusing on poverty reduction and wealth-creation - must be maintained. But many of us are increasingly uneasy about taxpayers' cash going to an institution which refuses to put its house in order. We need to start spreading our investments more widely.

Back in Jerusalem, I met once again students and alumni from MEET, which runs programmes which bring young Palestinian and Israeli entrepreneurs together. Both my colleague Ian Austin and I have asked that Britain considers funding MEET. Once again, however, its application has been turned down.

This is unsurprising. Britain's support for co-existence projects in Israel-Palestine is pitiable. The Department for International Development says that it no longer directly funds joint programmes. Instead, co-existence funding is funnelled through the new Conflict Stability and Security Fund (CSSF). But, as I have uncovered, less than 13 per cent of its £1.14m spend in Israel-Palestine is on projects which bring the two peoples together. This represents 0.2 per cent of the roughly £72m DfID spends in the Palestinian territories.

I am pleased that David Cameron says he is open to increasing funding on co-existence projects. Now we need to think boldly. I would like our spending on them raised to 25 per cent of the CSSF budget by 2018 and 50 per cent by 2020.

As I found at MEET, plenty of Israelis and Palestinians want to work together for a better future: we should be offering them more than praise.

November 24, 2016 23:22

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