PARIS - The European Union on Friday announced that it would give the Palestinian Authority 85 million euros to cover the salaries of essential workers and support families in need - after Israel last week blocked the transfer of NIS 300 million in Palestinian tax revenues to the PA in the wake of the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation agreement.
The European transfer of money, which has been criticized by Israel, comes in addition to 100 million euros already approved for 2011.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement that the newly allocated EU funds were being advanced at the request of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. She said that 45 million euros would go toward salaries and pensions of essential workers, mainly doctors, nurses and teachers, and a further 40 million would go to welfare allowances for needy Palestinian families.
"It is important that access to essential public services remains uninterrupted and the right to social services is respected," she was quoted as saying.
"This decision renews our commitment to support the most vulnerable among Palestinians, and is part of our support to the Palestinian National Authority's institution-building program contributing to the salaries and pensions of PA civil servants who work in health and education."
The EU has long been a critical financial supporter of the Palestinians and has provided 762 million euros in aid to the PA since 2008. This is in addition to 276 million euros, which has been given to the PA directly from different EU states.
The EU's announcement came just as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu left Europe Friday after a three-day trip during which he tried to convince European leaders to reject the Hamas-Fatah accord and refuse to deal with the new union until it unequivocally accepted Israel's right to exist. Israel blocked the transfer of funds to the PA, he explained, because it would be untenable to give money to an organization bent on Israel's destruction.
Following his meetings on Wednesday with British Prime Minister David Cameron and on Thursday with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Netanyahu said he felt these leaders were on the same page as him in terms of making acceptance of Israel a prerequisite for any consideration of talks with the new Palestinian union.
Before leaving France Friday, Netanyahu met with French Prime Minister Francois Fillon as well as with a group of French intellectuals and opinion makers and again lay out Israel's position that a unilateral declaration of statehood by the Palestinians would be a "big mistake," and would be seen by Israel as a "dictate," that it could not accept.
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