Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott has called for Australia to cut off the $40 million in aid it gives the Palestinian Authority annually, over the Abbas regime’s support for “terrorists and their families.” The Liberal politician also supported moving the Australian embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
Last month Mr. Abbott attended the Australia-Israel-UK Dialogue in Jerusalem, as did Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and other federal MPs. Last Thursday, writing under the headline “Jerusalem Diary” for The Spectator Australia, the 60-year-old, London-born Member of Parliament, wrote: “In discussions with the Australian MPs, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah claimed that his people accepted Israel’s right to exist behind secure borders; but this is hard to credit given Palestinian TV’s consistent glorification of suicide bombers, reference to Jews as the ‘sons of monkeys and pigs’ and claims that the state of Israel is a ‘satanic project.’”
Pointing out that “Israel’s GDP per person is about $40,000 a year” and “Palestine’s is about $2000,” Abbot stressed that “this is not due to inherent riches on one side of the [border],” but due to the ineptness and corruption of the PA bureaucracy. He quoted Australia’s “highly-regarded ambassador to Israel, Dave Sharma,” who had told him that “it can cost as much to ship a case of Palestinian beer from the West Bank to port at Haifa than from there to Japan.” Abbot’s concluded that the PA’s ” basic problem […] is a focus on politics over economics and the all-pervading sense of grievance.”
In order to improve the lives of PA Arabs, Abbot recommends “lesser issues that could be fixed before [the issue of Palestinian statehood] is resolved. It should be easier for people and goods to move from Palestine into Israel and Jordan. The UAE should join Jordan and Egypt in operating direct flights into Tel Aviv. And Australia should cut our $40 million a year in aid to the Palestinian Authority while it keeps paying pensions to terrorists and their families.”
Abbot also suggested that “another way for Australia to demonstrate its unswerving support for Israel, as the Middle East’s only liberal, pluralist democracy, might be to join any move by the Trump administration to move its embassy to Jerusalem.”
Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop issued a quick statement rejecting Abbot’s ideas: “The Australian Government does not have any plans to move the Australian Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.”
However, she did announce that Australia’s aid program to the PA was already under review: “The Australian aid program has robust risk management and due diligence assessment processes which are also applied to partner agencies and governments,” she stated, noting that “the Australian Government has a zero tolerance policy with regard to fraud and corruption.”
Bishop made it clear that “Australian aid to the Palestinian Territories is under review after the aid program for World Vision in the Palestinian Territories was suspended last year.”
Earlier this year, it was revealed that the head of the World Vision operations in the Gaza Strip turned out to be a Hamas agent who diverted much of the aid funds to Hamas military projects as well as to the restoration of Hamas leaders’ villas.
Labor senior politician Kate Ellis also rejected Abbot’s ideas, saying, “What we see here is Tony Abbott using policy on the Middle East to try and undermine [Liberal Prime Minister] Malcolm Turnbull.”
Similarly, Izzat Abdulhadi, head of the General Delegation of Palestine to Australia, told SBS that Abbot’s “statement, argument, is baseless, ideological, biased and lack evidence of the aid to Palestine.” Adding a touch of melodrama, the representative of one of the most corrupt regimes in the Middle East, with Swiss accounts to show for it, said about Abbot: “If he has some issues with the Prime Minister here it should not be [at] the expense of the suffering of the Palestinian children and Palestinian refugees.”