Rather than grant the Palestinian Authority the money, Oliver Warhelyi insists that the textbooks created for use in Palestine be altered. This process has been stuck since last year as a result of his insistence that the organization never accept hateful content regarding Israel.
“The annual plan must be adopted by the Commission,” community sources explain. “The item for 2021 should be approved, but there is no information yet on when this will happen.” The sources also hope that this payment happens without delay and without the conditions expressed by the Hungarian commissioner, which, according to sources, no one objected to at the last Foreign Affairs Council meeting.
It was recently announced by the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, that he would hand over the consensus of these debates to the presidency of the European Commission. This move should lead to funds being released.
The dispute would not end. On May 16th, before the Foreign Ministers convened again to discuss the issue, Irish Minister Simon Coveney said: “It is disappointing that this issue continues to drag on for so long. The position of the vast majority of EU member states is very clear, and the European Commission has no reason to delay financing the Palestinian Authority in accordance with last year’s budget of €301 million ($355 million). However, this resolution was just raised a month ago. I’m disappointed that we haven’t made any progress on this yet because it is a mandate from Europe. This is not money given by the European Commission; it is money given by all of you, our fellow EU citizens. We want to release him so that Palestinians will receive basic services.”
The European Union plays a key role in supporting the basic infrastructure that Palestine relies on to function. Even though this money is coming to Palestine, it’s still important for the EU to keep funding. They need to make sure that they’ll be there and support these services on the ground.
Ireland, Spain, and 14 other countries sent a letter to the United Nation late last year expressing their concerns about this. In the letter sent to Warheyi, they write that “imposing conditions at a time when the Palestinian Authority is already committed to an ambitious education reform program risks undermining or even reversing the progress made to date.” They ask for open dialogue with the Palestinians on this and other issues. In addition, it is imperative that we do our best to strengthen moderate voices against more radical players.
While it’s nice to see more funds being made available to UNRWA, the issue of whether or not the $30 million will go toward textbooks is a different story. The EU released a statement saying that they’re not giving any new money until there are new textbooks written by Palestinian teachers and leaders of school boards and little attention is being given to the entire frozen 215 million worth of aid in 2021. There was also a conflict around whether or not the 30 million worth of school books should be provided for free if Israel is responsible for their production.
At a meeting between the President of the European Socialists in the European Parliament, Irache Garcia, and the Prime Minister of Palestine, Mohammad Shtayyeh, Garcia expressed concern about the blocking of EU support for the Palestinian Authority. “Violence in the region is on the rise and it’s totally unacceptable that we have a single commissioner withholding support for our Palestinian Authority for silly reasons,” said Garcia. One of our commitments to civil peace in this region is to fund those who deserve financial help.
Garcia stressed that the political line of the EU has always been clear. “That is why I call on President von der Leyen to fulfill her responsibilities as well and not let individual European commissioners act against her policy,” she said.
“We asked the European Union to provide the promised assistance without any conditions. We hope to achieve this soon,” said Shtayyeh at the PA cabinet meeting last Monday in Ramallah after meeting with Garcia and the EU high representative for foreign affairs.
On Tuesday, Jan Egeland, a Norwegian diplomat, former leader of the Labor Party, and secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) since 2013, published a letter addressed to the president of the European Commission in which he spoke of lives that were in danger. That letter states that the EU should make a “stake in blocking EU aid to Palestine.”
Today, Mahmoud Abbas condemned the Israeli blockade of Gaza in a BBC interview. The Israeli government has placed severe restrictions on food imports in the territory and the amount of medicine that is allowed into Gaza via Israel. These policies have devastating consequences for some Gazans, who must choose between their health (and their child’s life).