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July 11, 2011 10:17 am

US Threatens Sanctions Against PA

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U.S. House Committee on Financial Services meeting.

With talk of a Palestinian attempt to bring its case for statehood directly to the United Nations, questions about such an attempt have been raised in the halls of governments around the globe.  The PA’s statement that it would unilaterally declare itself an independent state has challenged international diplomacy.

Key to the success or failure of this effort is the response of the United States. Any question about that position should be clearly answered by the directives contained in the recently passed H.R.268.  Introduced May 13, 2011, the bill states that U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) will be restricted “should (PA) leaders continue to evade direct negotiations with Israel and seek statehood at the United Nations.”  The House resolution calls on the President to “consider suspending American financial assistance to the PA as a result of its reconciliation with Hamas.

Introduced by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), the Bill had 320 cosponsors upon its arrival to the floor.  The final vote was close to unanimous: H. Res. 268 passed by an extraordinary vote of 407-6.  The legislation now goes to Committee” where it will be integrated with the parallel Senate (S. Res. 185), introduced by Sens. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Susan Collins (R-ME), Robert Casey (D-PA), John Thune (R-SD), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and Jim Risch (R-ID), and passed by unanimous consent.

The passage of these paired bills indicates a strong congressional affirmation of American support for direct negotiations aimed at developing a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Rep. Eric Cantor, Republican Majority Leader, called “upon the Palestinian Authority to return to the negotiating table and join the Israelis in direct discussions to end this conflict,: and said “Furthermore, we call on the leadership of the Palestinian Authority to renounce the violence Hamas condones and teaches to its followers.”

Rep. Hoyer asked the Palestinian leadership “to refrain from symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations,” arguing that “peace must be negotiated, not imposed from the outside.” He continued, saying “Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection. Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist.”

Support for the bill has been expressed across a wide spectrum.  The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) “commended the U.S. House of Representatives” and termed the resolution “a resounding message that the Palestinians cannot reject direct negotiations with Israel and embrace Hamas,” its National Chairman, Robert G. Sugarman and National Director Abraham H. Foxman, cautioned that ‘symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state.'”

New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler stressed the need for a bilateral, negotiated solution to the ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, leading towards a “two states for two peoples” solution. Said Nadler, “how can a dispute between two peoples ever be resolved by the unilateral decision of one?  The path to peace has been clear for many years and has been provided for by Security Council resolutions and by the 1993 Oslo Accords, signed by the Israelis and the Palestinians in 1993.  All these agreements provide for a settlement negotiated between the parties – a settlement that will result in two-states, a Jewish state of Israel and a state of Palestine….The Palestinian Authority should instead explain to its people that a Palestinian state can be achieved only by conceding the right of a Jewish state to live in peace and security next door.  And, for that to happen, there must be a negotiated agreement recognizing two states for two peoples.  Evading a negotiated agreement is a formula for a future war.”

House Resolution 268 reaffirms the United States’ commitment to a negotiated settlement… through direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations…to achieve “a true and lasting peace.”  It recalls historic pledges made by past leaders, including Rabin and Arafat, criticizes the PA/Hamas partnership, citing Hamas’ designation as “a Foreign Terrorist Organization and a specially designated terrorist organization.” (The continued captivity of Gilad Shalit by Hamas is noted.) The Bill outlines the United States’ positions on Hamas, the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, quoting Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s demand for Hamas to renounce violence and recognize Israel. The resolution discusses American negotiation policy positions, and annual aid, (more than $550 million) noting that “more than $3.5 billion cumulatively, has been provided to the Palestinians.

Concluding, the Bill “urges the administration to consider suspending assistance to the Palestinian Authority pending a review of the unity agreement; and reaffirms the United States statutory requirement precluding assistance to a Palestinian Authority that includes Hamas unless that Authority and all its ministers publicly accept Israel’s right to exist and all prior agreements and understandings with the United States and Israel.”

Congressman Steny Hoyer (D-Md), the Democratic Whip, was co-sponsor of the resolution.  Asked by the Algemeiner why he had initiated the bill, the Congressman said “We do not believe that independent or unilateral action to recognize a Palestinian state will move us toward what is necessary, and that’s agreement between the Palestinians and the Israelis on an agreement on their own, as opposed to imposed.  And we think, in fact, it will undermine the ability to reach agreement if, in fact, there is a U.N. or unilateral recognition of the Palestinian state.”

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