Australia announced today that it will stop direct aid to Palestine following objections from ministers over “martyr payments”.
Australia has previously provided 10 million Australian dollars ($7.4 million) of funding annually to the World Bank’s Palestinian Recovery and Development Trust Fund. The fund enables donors to support the Palestinian Authority’s national policy agenda, which focuses on institution-building activities and development projects.
Australian funds will now be redirected to the United Nations’ Humanitarian Fund for the Palestinian Territories, which provides health care, food and water, and sanitation to vulnerable families but does not focus on development. The move will mean Australian funds bypass the PA.
Australian Finance Minister, Julie Bishop, said: “I am concerned that in providing funds for this aspect of the PA’s operations there is an opportunity for it to use its own budget [for] activities that Australia would never support,” according to Australian news network SBS.
She added that “any assistance provided by the Palestine Liberation Organisation [PLO] to those convicted of politically motivated violence is an affront to Australian values.”
Bishop wrote to the Palestinian Authority in May seeking assurances that Australian money was not being used to finance so-called “martyr payments”. In a session of the Australian Senate held in June, right-wing minister Eric Abetz called for Australian aid to be cut until these payments ceased.
Abetz today welcomed the move to stop direct aid to Palestine, hailing “Minister Bishop’s strong and decisive decision today to ensure that the Palestinian Authority can no longer use our aid to free up money in its budget for state-promoted terrorism,” reported Haaretz.
The so-called “martyr payments” refer to the practice by the PA of paying pensions, which could amount to $3,500 a month, to families of those Palestinians killed by Israeli occupation authorities or languishing in Israeli prisons.
Other governments have expressed similar concerns. In March, US lawmakers passed legislation, known as the Taylor Force Act, to reduce aid to the PA unless it scrapped the practice. Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, called the US law a “powerful signal” to the PA.