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Australia MP calls for halting payments to Palestinians

Right-wing Australian minister Eric Abetz [Hawkesyj/Wikipedia]

Right-wing Australian minister Eric Abetz yesterday called on the country to cut its aid to Palestinian authorities until ‘martyr payments’ cease.

The Liberal party member said the payments were a “major barrier to peace in the Middle East”.

Abetz was speaking during a session of the Australian Senate yesterday where Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, sought assurances that Australian aid money sent to the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt) hasn’t been used for so-called “martyr payments”.

An official from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said Bishop had written to the Palestinian Authority (PA) seeking assurances that Australian money wasn’t being used to encourage violence.

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According to the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Australian government will provide an estimated 43 million Australian dollars ($32 million) in  official development assistance (ODA) to the occupied Palestinian territories in 2018-19. The funding aims to “strengthen the economic and social foundations of a future Palestinian state which can provide jobs and services for its people” and “seeks to align its support with the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) objectives.” Listed under a subsection called “our results”, the Department claims its ODA has been used to finance UNRWA education programmes, broker deals for agricultural producers and support small civil society projects in the oPt.

Other international governments have expressed similar concerns. In March, US lawmakers passed legislation to reduce aid to the PA unless it scrapped “martyr payments”. The measure is known as the Taylor Force Act.

The legislation aims to prevent the Palestinian Authority from paying pensions, which could amount to $3,500 a month, to the families of Palestinians killed by the Israeli authorities or thrown into their prisons.

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