Norwegian Foreign Minister responds to questions about Norwegian funding to the PA going to terrorists’ salaries
PMW's new report "The PA's Billion Dollar Fraud" was presented to officials of the Norwegian Foreign Ministry and Members of Parliament. The report exposes that the Palestinian Authority continues to pay salaries to terrorist prisoners, contrary to its claim to donor countries to have stopped funding these salaries already in 2014. The report sparked a debate among three Norwegian political parties - all from the coalition - about whether to continue funding the PA. It also led to a debate in parliament with the Foreign Minister.
Foreign Minister Børge Brende spoke on April 25, 2016 at a panel at the University of Agder at a panel discussing strategic choices in Norwegian foreign and security policy. He was asked about the NRK report on Norwegian TV responding to PMW’s report.
Foreign Minister Børge Brende: “The Foreign Ministry has said that it is correct that we also in the future will be a donor to the Palestinians, so that in the future we can establish a Palestinian state. We support a two-state solution. It is correct that from the overall budget, which the Palestinian authorities handle in Ramallah, the Palestinian authorities choose to use some of the tax money they collect within their own territory and give it to the PLO. This is tax money they collect in the West Bank and tax money they are reimbursed for by the Israelis, i.e., VAT. So they choose to spend some of the money on the PLO. Then it turns out that the PLO has established a program in which prisoners in Israeli jails, that is, Palestinians imprisoned in Israeli prisons - their families get some money from the Palestinians. What we have said is that we do not think it is a good idea if these are Palestinians who have committed crimes and terror. Then I do not think that the Palestinians should spend money on their families and indirectly on those who have committed the crimes and the acts of terror. I fully agree. I've said it to President Abbas, and I have said it just last week to [PA] Minister of Finance Bishara: I think it is completely unacceptable.
On the contrary, we have received absolutely crystal clear guarantees [from the PA] that it is not Norwegian money that goes to [the prisoner program]. That this is the impression that is left is very unfortunate and it is wrong, but I also think we should be quite clear, perhaps even clearer to the Palestinians and say that this is not the way to use tax revenues, because it makes the Palestinian just demand for a two-state solution less legitimate. If you take this to its end point, then you should also go [and complain] to Israel, which reimburses many billions to the Palestinians in VAT, and which they [the PA] allocate as they wish. [Claiming] that it is Norwegian money [that is to blame] turns it all upside down, but you can do anything with a bit of creative journalism.
We cannot micromanage [our] aid, but there has to be some limits, and the limit for me is that Norwegian aid money cannot go to paying prisoners who are in prison for having committed acts of terror. When the Palestinians have their own money and their own tax revenues, then the only solution is by way of persuasion to make them see that this is unwise. It is not possible for me to decide how they allocate their tax money, unless we set as a condition that we won’t give any money in the future if you [the PA] do not listen to us. But I have seen that not even Israel chooses to do so, so it's a question of whether or not [Norway] should be more Catholic than the Pope in this matter.”