European Union Aid to Palestinian Authority Delayed

Palestinian diplomats hurried to Europe in a last-ditch bid to torpedo a Hungarian proposal to condition aid on removing inciting material from schoolbooks

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
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EU Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi attends a news conference in Vienna, Austria February 22, 2022.
EU Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi attends a news conference in Vienna, Austria February 22, 2022.Credit: LEONHARD FOEGER/ REUTERS
Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

The European Union delayed transferring 214 million euros in annual aid to the Palestinian Authority on Tuesday, amid the divisive proposal to condition the aid on removing incitement from Palestinian schoolbooks.

Palestinian diplomats shuttled to Brussels in a last-ditch bid to block the proposal, which was put forward by Hungarian representative and Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement, Oliver Varhelyi, and claims the Palestinian syllabus contains antisemitism and incitement. The commission adopted the proposal in April 2021.

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A Palestinian source told Haaretz that Varhelyi's proposal did not pass, but neither did the majority of 14 countries required to scrap it. As such, the European Commission will now decide on the matter.

The majority of the aid – some 150 million euros – is earmarked for the PA’s budget, including salaries, while the rest are for projects and support for various civil society organizations and infrastructure renovations.

Commissioner Varhelyi has held a strong position on textbooks for a long time now, without reference to Israeli policy, and apparently saw an opportunity to try to use the budget to leverage change in the Palestinian school system’s textbooks after a German report on the issue was made public.

A senior Palestinian government figure in Ramallah, however, slammed the Hungarian delegate, telling Haaretz he is behaving like the far-right in Israel, and constantly raising demands regarding the aid.

The Israeli government supports the transfer of the funding in principle, as long as the money is used for the purposes for which it was donated.

Another senior Palestinian official familiar with the details criticized the European countries, arguing “They talk to us about curriculums and human rights and promoting elections, but ignore the violations and daily conduct of Israel as a brutal occupying entity.”

Over the weekend, Palestinian Foreign Minister, Dr. Riyad al-Maliki, also met with Varhelyi in Anatolia, and made it clear that the PA will not accept such demands. He stressed that the Hungarian position is not accepted by most EU countries, and that the Palestinians are making an effort to obtain a majority to reject the condition.

No peace plan in the offing

Meanwhile, Hady Amr, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for Israel and Palestinian affairs, met with a member of the PLO Executive Committee and an associate of President Mahmoud Abbas, Hussain Al-Sheikh, on Monday in Ramallah, who oversees relations with Israel and the U.S.

A senior Palestinian source told Haaretz that the administration has no intent of presenting a peace initiative anytime soon, and that most of the effort is focused on the intra-Palestinian arena. According to the source, Washington is actually pushing for personnel changes in the Palestinian government and a process of reforms, including the holding of elections.

The PA, for its part, demands concrete steps from the U.S., including the reopening of the East Jerusalem consulate, halting construction in West Bank settlements, and the restoration of financial aid.

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