Government sources suggest that the UK might review its aid payments to Palestine in line with European counterparts.
Britain is facing mounting pressure to suspend aid to Palestine as an international dispute over donations used to fund Hamas escalates. Despite recent decisions by Germany and Austria to end development funds to Gaza, Downing Street has stated that it currently has no plans to halt millions in foreign aid provided to Palestinian territories through the United Nations (UN). However, government sources have indicated that the UK may review its aid payments in order to align with its European counterparts.
The most recent aid payment of £10 million was made to Palestine by the UK in July through the UN’s Relief and Works Agency. This was followed by a visit to a Palestinian refugee camp in the West Bank by James Cleverly, the Foreign Secretary. Amid rising concerns that funds could fall into the hands of Hamas terrorists responsible for attacks on Israel, the European Commission announced an immediate halt to aid payments on Monday, placing over £600 million of future funding under review. However, after objections from several member states, the Commission revised its decision and instead announced a review to ensure that no EU funding indirectly supports terrorist organisations.
The suspension of funds was initially criticised by member states, led by Ireland, who argued that it would punish civilians rather than the terrorists themselves. Some questioned the legality of the decision made by an individual commissioner without the consent of all 27 member states. Ireland, which was the first EU country to officially recognise Palestine in 1980, expressed its lack of support for the suspension of aid. Spain, the current chair of the EU’s rotating presidency, also objected to the Commission’s announcement, and Luxembourg’s foreign minister emphasized the importance of aid to Gaza for the well-being of its people.
Meanwhile, Italy affirmed its commitment to continue delivering bilateral humanitarian aid to Palestine. The EU has pledged over £1 billion in financial support to Gaza and the West Bank, both of which are governed by Hamas, between 2021 and 2024. Prior to the EU’s decision, Germany had announced the cessation of its bilateral support to the territories, amounting to over £107 million, and Austria ended its £16 million effort.
Debate over the issue has even reached the Labour Party’s annual conference. At a fringe event, Labour shadow minister Wayne David advocated for an increase in aid to Palestine, while fellow shadow minister Lisa Nandy stressed the need to evaluate how British money is being used and whether it supports acts of terrorism. Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves also emphasised that party members must view Hamas as a terrorist organisation in order to remain within the party, expressing disdain for those who cheer for the Palestinian cause in the wake of Hamas attacks on Israel.
As the pressure mounts, the United Kingdom finds itself at the center of a complex political controversy surrounding aid to Palestine, weighing the need to provide support for the Palestinian people while ensuring responsible use of taxpayers’ contributions in an increasingly volatile political landscape.