Israel has asked the Biden administration to exert pressure on Arab and European countries to increase financial aid to the Palestinian Authority and move ahead on major economic development projects to help offset the economic crisis besetting the PA.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz has led the charge to enlist the international community to Israel’s efforts to prop up the Palestinian Authority, fearing that an economic collapse could lead to a deteriorating security situation.
Gantz made the appeal through Zohar Palti, the head of his ministry’s Political-Military Bureau, who told U.S. officials that the aid was needed to buttress the PA. Israeli officials said they expected the White House to take up the matter soon.
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The move comes as the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, the international donor group for the Palestinian Authority, is set to convene in Oslo on Wednesday. The committee was formed in 1993 as part of the Oslo accords to help the PA develop the Palestinian economy.
Over the past several years, the level of assistance has declined sharply, pushing the PA into a dire financial crisis. Data assembled by Israel shows that overseas aid dropped from $1.3 billion in 2011 to just $400 million in 2020.
Regional Cooperation Minister Esawi Freige was due to leave for Oslo on Monday together with officials from the government’s Office of Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories and the foreign and finance ministries. Part of the Oslo proceedings will take place virtually.
Freige intends to lobby donor countries to renew their commitments to the PA and make the case that the Abraham Accords present a socioeconomic and political opportunity for the Palestinian people.
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According to figures published by TheMarker, most of the European aid to the PA, a total of 600 million euros ($687 million), has been frozen. Only a few tens of millions of euros have been released in the form of humanitarian aid to cope with the coronavirus pandemic.
U.S. aid, which was suspended during the administration of President Donald Trump, was restored by Joe Biden. Most of this aid – about $235 million – is designated for the United Nations UNRWA arm. Before 2018, when Trump suspended the assistance, UNRWA received $360 million annually from the United States.
The problem of paying Palestinian civil servants in Gaza has been partly solved by aid from Qatar. Nevertheless, the biggest drop in aid has come from Arab countries, which had pledged $100 million monthly to the PA. However, in 2020 the aid was cut off without any explanation, forcing the PA to impose salary cuts of 50 percent on its workers.
Since the start of 2021, Arab countries have given the PA a total of $32 million, compared with $265 million in 2019. The only explanation offered for the sudden drop in aid, mainly by Saudi Arabia, the biggest donor of them all, is that the PA rejected the 2020 Trump peace plan.