(photo credit: courtesy)
WASHINGTON – Senior members of Congress are warning that the new deal between
Fatah and Hamas to form a Palestinian unity government jeopardizes American
assistance to the Palestinian Authority.
“The reported agreement between
Fatah and Hamas means that a foreign terrorist organization which has called for
the destruction of Israel will be part of the Palestinian Authority government,”
said Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs
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After Fatah-Hamas reconciliation, US plays it cool
“US taxpayer funds should not and must not be used to support
those who threaten US security, our interests, and our vital ally,
She stressed that US law prevents such funds – close to $500
million in annual assistance – because the PA must recognize Israel’s right to
exist in order to receive the funding.
Hamas, labeled a terrorist
organization by the US and Israel, is committed to Israel’s
Kay Granger, the chairwoman of the House appropriations
subcommittee overseeing the PA assistance, also indicated the unity government
would affect US support. “If a power-sharing agreement with a terrorist
organization becomes a reality in the Palestinian territories, the US will be
forced to reexamine our aid to the Palestinian Authority,” said Granger
spokesman Matt Leffingwell.
Granger is currently in Cairo holding
consultations on the issue, having met this week with Israeli and Palestinian
officials before the deal was announced.
Top Democrats echoed their
Republican colleagues. Nita Lowey, who serves as the ranking member of Granger’s
subcommittee, said, “Unless Hamas accepts the Quartet Principles, which include
renouncing violence and recognizing Israel, the formation of a unity government
with Fatah will be a deathblow to the peace process.”
And Gary Ackerman,
ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Middle East subcommittee,
charged that “the United States will be compelled by both law and decency to
withhold any assistance that could fall into the hands or control or even
partial control of anyone reporting to, or belonging to a terrorist entity, as
The response from the Obama administration to Wednesday’s
deal, however, has been more muted, as officials taken by surprise have
scrambled to sort out the details of the agreement, many of which are not yet
But the first public response by a White House official, National
Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor, indicated concern over the
“The United States supports Palestinian reconciliation on
terms which promote the cause of peace,” he said. “Hamas, however, is a
terrorist organization which targets civilians.”
Vietor continued, “To
play a constructive role in achieving peace, any Palestinian government must
accept the Quartet principles and renounce violence, abide by past agreements,
and recognize Israel’s right to exist.”
So far the unity government deal
does not apparently include these elements, and seems to push out PA Prime
Minister Salam Fayyad. The presence of the trusted, Western- educated economist
has been crucial to the willingness of the US administration and Congress to
funnel money to the PA.
Jackson Diehl, a prominent Washington Post
columnist, warned that if the agreement does stick, it would all but doom a
revival of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks at a time when the administration had
been making motions toward such an effort.
“If Palestinian President
Mahmoud Abbas moves forward with the reconciliation with the Islamic Hamas
movement, it will mean he has written off the Obama administration and the peace
process it has tried to broker, once and for all,” according to
Diehl noted that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had
recently spoke publicly about US efforts to intensify Israeli-Palestinian
peace-making and Obama’s own assertions that Abbas could shepherd such a
process. But with a unity government unwilling to accept the Quartet principles,
such plans would be thwarted.
“For Israel and the Obama administration,
the reconciliation spells a disaster,” Diehl wrote.