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Foreign office refuses to say how aid to Palestinian Authority is spent

Two Jewish groups demanded to know if British money is going to 'pay for slay'

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Britain's Foreign Secretary James Cleverly arrives for a cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street in central London on July 4, 2023. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP) (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

(JNS) The U.K. Foreign Office has declined to disclose how British development aid to the Palestinian Authority is audited, claiming it would "not be in the public interest" to do so, Jewish groups claimed on Monday.

In a statement reported by the JN website, We Believe in Israel and B'nai B'rith U.K. accused London's Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) of attempting to dodge a May 2023 freedom of information request that sought to make public audit reports related to the "Palestinian Recovery and Development Program."

Established in 2008 by the World Bank, the donor scheme seeks to combine donations from multiple countries, including the United Kingdom, to provide a persistent cash flow to the P.A. Notably, as pointed out by Palestinian Media Watch in 2019, funds are provided to the P.A. "untied and unearmarked."

Following the April 7, 2023 terror attack that killed three members of the British-Israeli Dee family, We Believe in Israel and B'nai B'rith made a formal request to find out whether U.K. taxpayers are contributing to Ramallah's "pay-for-slay" policy, under which it pays monthly stipends to terrorists and to the families of slain terrorists.

The two organisations said that Foreign Office initially ignored the request, leading the Information Commissioner's Office, the authority which enforces the Freedom of Information Act, to order a response.

"The disclosure of information detailing the audit reports of the Palestinian Recovery and Development Programme could potentially damage the bilateral relationship between the U.K. and Palestine," the FCDO subsequently replied, adding that this would harm the government's ability to "protect and promote" U.K. interests through its relations with "Palestine."

The Foreign Office also argued that the presence of "third-party personal data" prevented publication.

"Our FOI request was submitted in good faith as part of an attempt to ensure that British aid to the Palestinian Authority is not being used to support, facilitate, or incentivise terrorism, be that directly or indirectly," stated Luke Akehurst, director of We Believe in Israel. "By initially failing to lawfully respond and now refusing to provide the disclosure, the FCDO raises questions about the integrity of its foreign aid distribution," he continued.

B'nai B'rith U.K. International Affairs Director Jeremy Havardi said, "While the FCDO may not want to answer as to whether or not they are aware the aid it disburses to the P.A. incentivizes terrorism, we do not accept their position. Our work continues, and we are confident that we will succeed in securing this disclosure."

The British Consulate in eastern Jerusalem last week expressed deep concerns over Israel's counterterrorism operation in the West Bank city of Jenin. "We call on Israel to adhere to the principles of necessity and proportionality when defending its legitimate security interest," the July 3 statement read.

An FCDO spokesperson said:No UK aid is given directly to the Palestinian Authority. All UK support is technical advice provided through approved commercial suppliers.”

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