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Norway update: Possible hearing in Norwegian Parliament
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Norway update:
Possible hearing in Norwegian Parliament
about Foreign Ministry's misinforming Parliament
about PA's payment of salaries to prisoners,
among them terrorists
 
PA to Norway:
Prisoners' salaries are not paid with donor money

Norway and Britain still waiting for PA clarifications
of "more detailed questions to the program"

by Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik

"We are one step closer to a hearing," stated the Chairman of the Norwegian Parliamentary Scrutiny and Constitutional Affairs Committee, MP Anders Anundsen, commenting on the Foreign Ministry's handling of the issue with the PA's program of paying salaries to prisoners, among them terrorists. Palestinian Media Watch has reported on the matter extensively.

"We are not getting an answer [that is] specific enough to the questions we are asking. It is difficult to understand that the Foreign Ministry has not been familiar with this program before," the Chairman stated.

Click to view

Asked by investigative journalist Tormod Strand if he thinks it is "credible that the Foreign Ministry has not known about this," MP for Høyre (Right) Peter Gitmark also expressed concerns over the Foreign Ministry's conduct in the case:

"No, it isn't. [The fact that] the Norwegian Foreign Minister heads the donor group (AHLC) and a large Norwegian office in the PA, makes me think they would have noticed this. This is a comprehensive program that has existed for an extended period of time, and I think that the Norwegian authorities and the Norwegian Foreign Ministry have known [about it]."
 
MP Gitmark's and the Committee's reactions follow Foreign Minister Eide's third letter to the Committee, in which he explained that:

"As far as we can see, the [PA's support] program for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and the development of this program has not been a subject among donor countries before autumn 2012. On the Norwegian side, the support program was not a subject until 2011 either... Norway has therefore not undertaken any investigations of the program for [money] transfers to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails before September 5, 2011"
 
The Committee had asked the FM what "other investigations" the Foreign Ministry performed.

In his letter to the Committee, the Foreign Minister further explained that PA Chairman Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad recently informed him that donor money is not used for paying the prisoners' salaries:
"The program has existed for a long time and is funded by the Palestinians' own resources. More than half of the PA's budget is financed by [their] own tax and fee revenues, and according to the PA this support program for Palestinian prisoners and their families is independent of the budget support from donor countries."
 
Foreign Minister Eide also stated that the PA "confirmed that they are about to complete their response letter to the Norwegian-British inquiry [which contained] more detailed questions about the program."

Click to see PDF of the English translation of the Norwegian Foreign Minister's third letter.

Click to see PMW's four reports on the PA's payments of salaries to terrorists.

To review how the story has been developing in Norway:

Click to see the debate in Norway generated by PMW's findings, the responses of Norwegian MPs, and the Parliamentary Committee investigation questioning why the Foreign Ministry did not give the correct information to parliament earlier.

Click to see how the Parliamentary Committee expressed dissatisfaction with the Foreign Minister's first answer, and how the Foreign Minister in his second letter admitted that the PA has special support program for prisoners, including terrorists, in Israel.

Click to see the Parliamentary Committee's request to receive further information about what other investigations the Foreign Ministry performed pertaining to the issue.

Click to see the UK Parliament debate of PMW's findings about PA hate incitement and UK's funding of the PA.

The following is the transcript of the NRK TV News report on the latest development in Norway:

NRK TV newsreader: "The case of Palestinian prisoners, among them terrorists, who receive salaries from the Palestinian Authority, continues. The Høyre Party (Right) now say that they do not trust the information they receive from the Foreign Ministry, because Norway gives large sums to Palestine every year. The head of the Scrutiny [and Constitutional Affairs] Committee in Parliament says it can lead to a hearing in Parliament."

Reporter Tormod Strand: "Palestinian terrorism against Israeli targets has been part of the conflict between Israel and Palestine for a long time. Here [footage] from Hadera in 2001. Four civilian women were killed. 4,600 Palestinian prisoners are [imprisoned] in Israeli prisons, convicted of security offenses. 500 of them are [serving] lifetime [sentences] for terror-related acts."

Visual: PMW video exposing PA TV's glorification of terrorists and one of PMW's reports on the PA's payment of salaries to terrorists.

Reporter Tormod Strand: "[NRK] Evening News has reported that these prisoners, who are being praised on PA TV, receive great financial benefits from the PA for the battle they have fought for Palestine.
February 15, [2013]: The Foreign Ministry at first denied that such a [support] program [for prisoners] existed.
March 21, [2013]: After checking with Palestine, the Foreign Ministry confirmed that it may be true that such a program exists.
Now the Foreign Ministry calls for more detailed answers from Palestine.
Yesterday, the Foreign Ministry sent another letter to Parliament to clarify. [But] the Høyre Party (Right) does not trust the answers they get from the Foreign Ministry."
 

Reporter Tormod Strand interviewing MP Peter Gitmark (the Høyre Party): "Is it credible that the Foreign Ministry has not known about this?"

MP Peter Gitmark (Høyre): "No, it isn't. [The fact that] the Norwegian Foreign Minister heads the donor group (AHLC) and a large Norwegian office in the PA, makes me think they would have noticed this. This is a comprehensive program that has existed for an extended period of time, and I think that the Norwegian authorities and the Norwegian Foreign Ministry have known [about it], also for an extended period of time."

Reporter Tormod Strand: "The Scrutiny [and Constitutional Affairs] Committee believes that it can lead to a hearing in Parliament."

MP Anders Anundsen (Progress Party) and Chairman of the Scrutiny and Constitutional Affairs Committee: "I think we are one step closer to a hearing, simply because we are not getting an answer [that is] specific enough to the questions we are asking. And it is difficult to understand that the Foreign Ministry has not been familiar with this program before."

NRK newsreader: "Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide did not want to comment on this issue today."
[NRK TV News (Norway), April 10, 2013]

The following is the Norwegian Foreign Minister's third letter to the Parliamentary Scrutiny and Constitutional Affairs Committee:
THE ROYAL FOREIGN MINISTRY
Committee Chairman Anders Anundsen
Scrutiny and Constitutional Affairs
Parliament, 0026 Oslo
Oslo, April 9, 2013

Re.:The Foreign Ministry's financial contributions to the Palestinian Authority

Referring to the letter from the Committee on Scrutiny and Constitutional Affairs dated April 2, 2013 and previous correspondence, and referring also to my answers to written questions about the same issue from MP Kjell Ingolf Ropstad - No. 1085, No. 1084 and No. 930 (2012-2013).

As far as we can see, the [PA's support] program for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and the development of this program has not been a subject among donor countries before autumn 2012. On the Norwegian side, the support program was not a subject until 2011 either. As far as we can see from our archives in the Foreign Ministry, Norway has therefore not undertaken any investigations of the program for [money] transfers to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails before September 5, 2011, except when it obtained some information from the Palestinian Authority (PA) in connection with answering a press inquiry in May of that year.

I discussed this issue with President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad in Ramallah on April 4th of this year [2013], when I again made it clear that Norway views aspects of this program as problematic. They informed [me] that the program has existed for a long time and is funded by the Palestinians' own resources. More than half of the PA's budget is financed by [their] own tax and fee revenues, and according to the PA this support program for Palestinian prisoners and their families is independent of the budget support from donor countries. Abbas and Fayyad assured me that this wiII apply in the future as well. Although it may be difficult to distinguish the budget support from other income [sources], the PA is still required to meet several developmental objectives upon which the PA and the donors have agreed. So far, the donors feel that the PA meets these objectives. In addition, the PA stated that the portion of the funds paid [to the prisoners] as canteen money is channeled through the Israeli authorities.

The PA also confirmed that they are about to complete their response letter to the Norwegian-British inquiry [which contained] more detailed questions about the program. I will return to Parliament as soon as the PA has answered these questions, but in the meantime I do not have an exact date for this.

Kind regards,
Espen Barth Eide
[Norwegian Government's website, accessed April 21, 2013, http://www.regjeringen.no/upload/UD/Vedlegg/
stortinget/brev_svar_kkk13409.pdf]


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