Palestinians have strengthened ties with the EU following a visit by Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh to Brussels this week, a top official has revealed.
Shtayyeh called on the EU for political support to preserve the two-state solution, boycott goods made in Israeli settlements and reconsider cooperation agreements with Israel.
The EU will grant the Palestinian Authority $325 million in aid, including support for the UN Relief and Works Agency, social assistance for low-income families and infrastructure projects.
Abdul Rahim Al-Farra, Palestinian ambassador to the EU, said that final touches had been made to an aid agreement, which will be signed next week in Ramallah.
Al-Farra said that consultations and political dialogue had begun at the ministerial level, adding that steps had been taken to “conclude a full partnership agreement between the two sides.”
EU officials have condemned the violations taking place in Palestine, rejected the punitive measures imposed on the PA by Israel and called for a more effective role that goes beyond statements, Al-Farra said.
Ahmad Al-Deek, a political adviser at the Palestinian Foreign Ministry, told Arab News that Palestinians are calling on the EU to strengthen political and economic support for Palestine and become a key player in launching a peace process to end the Israeli occupation.
Negotiations are taking place with the EU to obtain additional European support for the PA’s budget, Al-Deek said.
Shadi Othman, a spokesman for the EU in Jerusalem, told Arab News that the bloc will support UNRWA with $100 million and that an agreement to support Palestinian projects will be signed in Ramallah next week.
A high-ranking Palestinian official told Arab News that the EU was the only party to financially support the PA after American and Arab support stopped.
The PA used to receive annual financial support of $2 billion from the US, Arab countries and the EU. Now it only receives $250 million from the EU and Algeria.
In a separate development, Palestinians have expressed anger after the three Palestinian landline and cellular phone companies have said they will be charging their 5 million subscribers amounts in the name of donations to Jerusalem for 12 months, following a presidential decree.
The PA is aiming to collect $18 million this way.
Hundreds of Palestinian subscribers have threatened to cut their phone lines if the decision is implemented.
Esmat Mansour, a Palestinian political analyst, told Arab News that this anger is owing to previous experiences with the PA collecting donations that did not reach their target.
“Citizens feel that this is an attempt to exploit them and steal their money using fraudulent methods,” Mansour said.
The mechanism, she added, is “undemocratic, illegal, and needs more transparency.”
Amer Hamdan, a Palestinian human rights activist from Nablus, told Arab News this decree issued by the president is illegal, and that Mahmoud Abbas “has no right to issue such decrees and deduct funds unilaterally.”
He said: “The Palestinian government is suffering from a severe financial crisis and wants to solve this through the citizens’ pockets.”
Majed Al-Arouri, a human rights activist from Ramallah, told Arab News: “The PA has turned into an authority to collect money to cover its expenses without improving the services it provides to citizens.”
Protesters said it would be more appropriate for the PA to impose these sums on large companies operating in the Palestinian territories that enjoy tax exemptions and earn huge profits from the Palestinian market.
Ahmed Guneim, a senior Fatah leader from East Jerusalem, said that people did not believe the money would eventually reach Jerusalem.