WASHINGTON — A bipartisan Senate letter backing US assistance to the Palestinian Authority toward returning it to power in the Gaza Strip has the backing of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
Sens. Robert Casey (D-Pa.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), both considered close to AIPAC, initiated the letter to US Secretary of State John Kerry now circulating among senators for signatories. An official of the lobby on Wednesday confirmed to JTA that AIPAC supports the letter.
The letter and AIPAC’s backing for it signal a sharp change from before the latest Israel-Hamas war in Gaza over the summer, when AIPAC backed congressional measures that would have penalized the Palestinian Authority in the wake of its agreement to work with Hamas toward elections.
“We must enable efforts to enable the Palestinian Authority to exercise real power in Gaza,” it says.
“Real peace between Israelis and Palestinians will require a Palestinian partner that controls the West Bank and Gaza, is focused on economic development in both areas, and will accept Gaza’s demilitarization,” says the letter which Ayotte and Casey plan to send Sept. 18 after garnering additional signatures. “We must start this process now.”
Hamas forced the Palestinian Authority out of Gaza in 2007 after a unity government collapsed into bloody warfare between the factions.