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The EU’s highest-ranking executive, Ursula von der Leyen, is set to arrive in Israel this week on her first official visit since the Bennett-Lapid government took office. While most coverage will portray the visit as reflecting improved ties between Jerusalem and Brussels, her visit also marks six months since the Israeli government designated six Palestinian NGOs as terror fronts. This decision was originally met with criticism by the European Commission.

The designation, which was a major departure from previous Israeli policies, came after at least five senior NGO employees were arrested for their involvement in the murder of 17-year-old Rina Shnerb in August 2019.

Israel’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) referred to the six NGOs as “a network” that operates “on behalf of the ‘Popular Front [for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP],’” an EU-designated terror organization. Relevant for Israel-Europe relations, the MoD accused the NGOs of diverting humanitarian funds from European government donors to the PFLP.

Independent research conducted by NGO Monitor shows that in 2011-2021, the European Commission alone provided at least €28 million for projects featuring these NGOs as implementing partners. Together with other European governments, the total exceeds €200 million to a network of at least 13 NGOs linked to the PFLP.