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Cuts to aid for the Palestinians discussed by Norwegian MPs, following release of PMW's report

Silje Rognsvåg  |
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. Abbs later confirmed PMW's findings in a conversation with the Norwegian Foreign Minister.

Headline: “Unrest in Progress Party over Brende’s Middle East Stance”

By Silje Rognsvåg

[MP] Jørund Rytman (Progress Party) demands a cut in [Norwegian] aid to the Palestinians.
‘[Foreign Minister Børge] Brende must turn off the faucet, if not completely, then a little to show that we are willing to act,’ says Member of Parliament (Progress Party) Jørund Rytman, head of Israel's friends at Parliament.
He is critical of his own government and the foreign minister’s stance on Middle East policy, and reacts [to the fact] that the Palestinians still have a program to pay salaries to Palestinians convicted of terror who are imprisoned in Israeli prisons [as documented by PMW].

According to Rytman, it is no secret that there is unrest in the Progress Party over Foreign Minister Børge Brende’s (Conservative) efforts regarding the issue. Although he is happy that [Norway’s] Middle East policy has taken a more blue (i.e., conservative) direction, he believes it can become even more ‘balanced.’
‘Our general position on the development aid policy is that funding may go to corruption,’ says Rytman.

This week he will receive answers from Brende on two written questions. One asks what the minister will do to ensure that Norwegian funds are not going [to finance] the so-called prisoners’ salaries.

The Palestinians’ president, Mahmoud Abbas, assured Brende as recently as last week that Norwegian funds are not going to this.
Rytman believes that this occurs indirectly when Norwegian aid finances parts of a system that uses other means to [pay] salaries to terror-convicted prisoners.

[MP Rytman:] ‘As I see it, this is an accounting fraud, which has now been revealed. An equivalent amount is given instead to the PLO, which then passes the prisoners’ salaries on. Pedagogically you can explain it by saying that it is the same people, but the sign on the door is being swapped,’ says Rytman.

Turn off the faucet
He thinks that it should have consequences when the Palestinian authorities are not listening to Norge’s clear recommendations and advice.
‘I think we have reached the point where we should turn off the faucet. We should consider to what extent. I'm willing to take the fight to Parliament if nothing is done by the government.’
Rytman is supported by Progress Party grassroots.

‘It should at least be considered whether these funds are being spent well and whether it really contributes to peace and development, says Torkil Åmland Hordaland Progress Party [branch].

The second question [Foreign Minister] Brende must answer deals with education [promoting] hatred of Jews in the Palestinian education system, and is based on another report by Palestinian Media Watch, which Dagen reported on in April [2016]. Rytman is asking if the minister will publicly condemn Antisemitism as is [found] in Palestinian areas and elsewhere.

Party colleague and Member of Parliament Christian Tybring-Gjedde believes that hate education should have consequences on the aid money.
- Norway should stop all aid to the Palestinian Authority. The money makes matters worse,’ he stated to Dagen in April.

A week ago Tybring-Gjedde wrote the following on his Facebook page: ‘Every year, we transfer several hundred million [kroner] to this government (unity with Hamas and Fatah -Dagen's editorial note). Norway's two largest parties believe this is the right policy because they want to keep the Palestinian Authority in power at all costs. To me, this is incomprehensible,’ he wrote, [receiving] strong support in the comments.

Christian Democrats following the issue
The minister brought up the prisoners’ salaries with Abbas when he met him in Ramallah last week.
"Although Norwegian aid funds do not finance the program, in the future Norway will, as major donor to the Palestinian Authority, also express that we find the practice unacceptable and recommend that it be abolished," Brende writes in his answer to a written question from MP Astrid Byrknes (Christian Democrats)

Byrknes is happy with Brende's efforts [to influence] Abbas last week.
‘The Christian Democrats will follow developments on the issue in general and we must also ensure that Norway's general [PA] budget support is not used for this purpose (i.e., prisoners’ salaries). It is important for us. Other than that, the Progress Party has, as [one of the] ruling parties, every opportunity to follow up on the matter, she writes in an SMS.
‘Will it help to cut the aid to the Palestinians, Rytman?’
‘I think so. It is a language they understand. I think they themselves understand how dependent they are on aid from the rest of the world.’”