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May 10, 2011 5:29 pm

Politicians Speak Out Against Aid to PA-Hamas

avatar by Maxine Dovere

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Not on my Watch: Congresswoman Nita Lowey expressed stong support for Israel at the 2011 JCRC Legislative Breakfast. Photo: Maxine Dovere.

Friday, May 6, led by Senators Robert Casey (D-PA) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ), 27 United States’ senators sent a letter to President Obama proposing that aid to the Palestinian Authority-Hamas coalition cease. “The decision of Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas to form a unity government with Hamas – a designated terrorist group – threatens to derail the Middle East peace effort for the foreseeable future and to undermine the Palestinian Authority’s relationship with the United States” according to Senator Menendez.  The President was asked to “evaluate the U.S. relationship with the Palestinian Authority and consider taking stronger measures in condemnation of the recently formed Fatah-Hamas unity government, stand by its refusal to work with any Palestinian government that includes Hamas and consider cutting aid should the U.S. designated terrorist group remain in the government.” Based on United States law, aid should “not be provided to a Palestinian government that includes Hamas, unless the government and all its members have publically committed to the Quartet principles.”

Senator Casey, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs subcommittee, and Menendez, the committee’s third ranking Democrat on the same committee, were joined by Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

In fiscal 2011, the Palestinian Authority received $550 million in aid, as designated project funding and direct cash payments. The Senators’ letter notes that in its new iteration, which appears to include elements of Hamas’ foreign policy including the statement of foreign policy chief Mahmoud al-Zahar that “our plan does not involve negotiations with Israel or recognizing it.”

“As you are aware, U.S. law prohibits aid from being provided to a Palestinian government that includes Hamas unless the government and all its members have public committed to the Quartet principles,” the senators wrote. “We urge you to conduct a review of the current situation and suspend aid should Hamas refuse to comply with Quartet conditions.”

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House Foreign Affairs Committee chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) recently stated that “No taxpayer funds should go, they must not go” to the new Palestinian unity government, telling the Washington Post that  “Hamas is designated as a foreign terrorist organization.” The agreement between Hamas and Fatah means, she says, “this foreign terrorist organization which has called for the elimination of Israel” is now in league with the Palestinian Authority.  “Whatever hybrid marriage, whatever Rubik’s cube” they use, she contends, U.S. taxpayer funding is prohibited under current law. “That’s what the law says,” she said. She rejects any attempt to allow U.S. funds to be sent to the PA even if Hamas does not “control” the new government entity.   “I don’t care if there is one or five or hundreds of members of Hamas; no U.S. funds can go to the PA. Call it what you want. .”‰.”‰. Be fools if you want. But we will hold the Obama administration’s feet to the fire.”

Ros- Lehtinen has expressed full distrust of Hamas and says she “hopes the United States would not be “snookered” by empty promises from “scoundrels.”  Representatives Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) and Kay Granger (R-Tex.) have also called for the cessation of funds to the “unity government.” The Florida Congresswoman says “they are pretty bad guys already,” and continuing to fund will have not positive result.

New York Congresswoman Nita Lowey, (D-NY) the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee, told the Algemeiner that Hamas, in less than a week as “partner to the PA” had “demonstrated to the world that they are not a responsible partner for peace in the Middle East.” She called on the Palestinian Authority to “immediately abandon the formation of a unity government that includes Hamas.”

“For decades, the United States has provided assistance to the Palestinian Authority to build government institutions, strengthen security forces, and promote economic development. This aid is predicated on the PA’s commitment to pursuing efforts to establish peace with Israel. A unity government with Hamas puts U.S. assistance and support at risk, based on restrictions I authored as Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations. I strongly urge the leadership of the Palestinian Authority to reconsider forming a unity government with Hamas and to instead return to negotiations with Israel, which are the only hope for a peaceful, stable, and prosperous future for both Israelis and Palestinians.”

As reported by the Algemeiner, White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, speaking before the American Jewish Committee annual meeting April 28, said “Any Palestinian government must renounce violence, it must abide by past agreements and it must recognize Israel’s right to exist.” His words are consistent with US State Department statements.  His statements were confirmed at a recent State Department briefing by spokesman Mark Toner who said “We’ve said very clearly that we’ll work with a Palestinian Authority government that unambiguously and explicitly commits to nonviolence, recognition of the state of Israel and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations between the parties. And that includes the road map,” Toner said. “And our position on Hamas has not changed. We still believe it’s a foreign terrorist organization.”

The full text of the letter is below:

Friday, May 6, 2011

Dear Mr. President:

The decision of Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas to form a unity government with Hamas – a designated terrorist group – threatens to derail the Middle East peace effort for the foreseeable future and to undermine the Palestinian Authority’s relations with the United States.

Hamas rejects peaceful efforts to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and continues to call for the destruction of the State of Israel. Soon after this agreement was signed, senior Hamas official Mahmoud Zahar declared that “our plan does not involve negotiations with Israel or recognizing it.” Hamas and other Iranian-backed terrorist groups in Gaza have also stepped up their smuggling of Iranian arms and increased their mortar and rocket attacks against Israeli civilians, firing more than 130 during the past month alone and nearly 300 this year. Hamas’ response to the killing of Osama Bin Laden, condemning “the assassination and killing of an Arab holy warrior” is emblematic of Hamas’ ideology and underscores Hamas’ continued support for terrorism.

The United States should stand by its refusal to work with any Palestinian government that includes Hamas. We welcome statements from the Administration recognizing that Hamas is a terrorist organization and insisting that it accept the Quartet conditions (of recognizing Israel’s right to exist, rejecting violence, and endorsing previous Israeli-Palestinian peace agreements). We strongly support Secretary Clinton’s 2009 Statement that: “we will not deal with nor in any way fund a Palestinian government that include Hamas until Hamas has renounced violence, recognized Israel and agreed to follow the previous obligations of the Palestinian Authority.”

It is imperative for you to make clear to President Abbas that Palestinian Authority participation in a unity government with an unreformed Hamas will jeopardize its relationship with the United States, including its receipt of U.S. aid. As you are aware, U.S. law prohibits aid from being provided to a Palestinian government that includes Hamas, unless the government and all its members have publically committed to the Quartet principles. We urge you to conduct a review of the current situation and suspend aid should Hamas refuse to comply with Quartet conditions.

Ultimately, the legitimacy of any peace process must always be weighed against the assurances Israel needs for its security and the security of the region. Hamas’ participation in the Palestinian government eliminates the trust and commitment to peace that must exist between the parties to move forward and therefore, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stated, the choice is between “peace with Israel or peace with Hamas” because “there is no possibility for peace with both.”

As fellow Democrats, we thank you for your continued commitment to and investment in Israel’s security. We urge you to make clear to President Abbas and the international community the United States’ opposition to a Fatah-Hamas unity government that does not fully accept the Quartet principles. Such a government will prove fatal to the peace effort, as well as to efforts to establish a Palestinian state, and will severely harm relations with the United States. The Palestinian Authority needs to get back to the negotiating table rather than pursue futile and harmful efforts to join with Hamas or seek recognition of Palestinian statehood at the UN.

Signed

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