There was confusion today over reports that the UK government had suspended millions of pounds in aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) over payments to prisoners in Israeli detention.
Citing unnamed “Whitehall insiders”, the Sun newspaper reported on Friday that the Department for International Development (DFID) had suspended £25 million in cash to the PA “pending an investigation”, on the orders of International Development Secretary Priti Patel.
The sources cited by the article claimed that payments to the PA “should re-start next year once the investigation is complete.” One unnamed official said the government is “delaying” the payments “to a date when we know our money won’t be going to people who do nothing in return for it.”
Today, however, a DFID spokesperson denied any knowledge of the reported suspension.
“The UK remains firmly committed to supporting the Palestinian Authority to build and strengthen the institutions needed for a two-state solution, which is essential for the prosperity and security of the region,” a statement read.
“As part of her examination of UK assistance to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the International Development Secretary will ensure this financial support gets the maximum impact and best value for money to the UK taxpayer,” it continued.
The spokesperson added that the Sun report was inaccurate and that nothing has changed.
The reported suspension had already been warmly welcomed by a number of pro-Israel groups who have long campaigned on the issue of so-called “incitement” and payments to “terrorists” by the PA.
Numerous celebratory statements had already been published, including from the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Jewish Leadership Council, and the Zionist Federation, whose chair seemingly compared the decision to the US civil rights movement.
Luke Akehurst, of pro-Israel lobby group BICOM, said he was “delighted” at the news, while there were also positive reactions from Labour Friends of Israel’s Ian Austin MP, Tory MP Matthew Offord and Conservative Friends of Israel.
In June, pro-Israel MPs were accused of “hijacking” a Westminster debate on UK aid, in order to attack the PA and even smear Israeli human rights groups.