The European Commission has made a reversal in its decision to suspend aid payments to the Palestinian Authority after Israel declared a “siege” on Gaza. Foreign policy chief Josep Borrell announced on Monday evening that the EU would not be suspending the aid payments, contradicting an earlier statement from Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi.
In his statement, Borrell emphasized that suspending the aid payments would punish the entire Palestinian population and would only further embolden terrorists. He also pointed out that it would damage EU interests in the region. This statement came after Varhelyi had announced earlier that the European Commission would review the €691 million ($728.8 million) in aid to the Palestinian Authority and suspend all payments immediately. Varhelyi had described Hamas’ actions as a turning point and called for a change in approach.
The announcement by Varhelyi came in the midst of the clashes between Hamas and the Israeli military, which resulted in hundreds of casualties on both sides. However, shortly after the announcement, Israel implemented a complete siege of Gaza, cutting off the supply of water, food, and electricity to over 2 million Palestinians in the territory.
Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn was reportedly the first senior European official to challenge Varhelyi’s proclamation, stating that the decision should be made by the 27 member states, and that the matter would be discussed during a meeting of foreign ministers on Tuesday. Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares also expressed his disagreement with the decision, stating that the foreign ministers were not aware of it.
Janez Lenarcic, the EU commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis management, also contradicted Varhelyi, stating that while he strongly condemns Hamas, the EU aid will continue as long as it is needed. Lenarcic’s statement highlights the importance of providing assistance to the Palestinian population.
In a press release to clarify Varhelyi’s remarks, the European Commission stated that it would be conducting an urgent review of its assistance for Palestine. However, it clarified that no payments were being suspended because there were no payments foreseen at that time. The objective of the review is to ensure that EU funding does not indirectly support terrorist organizations in carrying out attacks against Israel. The Commission also stated that it would review its support programs for the Palestinian population and the Palestinian Authority in light of the changed circumstances on the ground.
The European Commission’s backtrack on suspending aid payments demonstrates the complex nature of the situation in the region. It highlights the need for a thoughtful and nuanced approach to providing assistance and addressing the ongoing conflicts between Israel and Palestine. The EU’s commitment to continuing aid while also ensuring that it does not inadvertently support terrorism is crucial in maintaining stability and promoting peace in the region.