EU releases aid to Palestinians held up over textbook reform

European Commission votes to release some long-delayed funding to the Palestinian Authority, which has been held up in a fight over whether to condition the aid on reforms to PA textbooks; it is unclear if the now released funds are sent on condition that the alleged incitement is removed from the curricula.

On Monday, June 13, the European Commission voted to release some long-delayed funding to the Palestinian Authority. Hundreds of millions of Euros were held up for over two years due to a fight over whether to condition the aid on reforms made to textbooks used in the Palestine, reports The Times of Israel.

The Commission voted to release aid for the year 2021, reportedly about $220 million in direct budget support to the PA. Originally, it was EU Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi who proposed conditioning about $10 million of the EU’s aid on reforms to Palestinian textbooks due to the contained alleged incitement. His proposal sparked a months-long heated debate in Brussels, as officials have strong feelings for and against it.

Palestinian Authority textbooks have been a subject of controversy for a long time; watchdogs claim that the curricula promotes violence and glorifies terrorism, while the PA defends it as a faithful reflection of their national narrative.

The European Union, the PA’s largest donor, helps to pay the salaries of the PA’s many civil servants, constituting a significant chunk of the West Bank economy. Between 2008 and 2020, Brussels sent around $2.5 billion in direct budget support to the PA. However, due to the freezing of the aid, the PA could have faced fiscal collapse. The wages of many PA civil servants was delayed for months, and the PA has fallen ever further behind on payments to Israel for electricity and water.

Nevertheless, the question still remains, whether financial aid to the PA should be linked to textbook reforms. There are largely opposing views within the European Parliament, the Commission, and the Council.

Palestinian Authority officials have repeatedly said that they will not accept conditioning the aid on changes to Palestinian textbooks. The PA has also consistently rejected the accusation that its textbooks promote violence and terrorism.