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The US House of Representatives on Tuesday approved the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006, which limits the administration's ability to have diplomatic ties with the Palestinian Authority, cuts all direct aid to the PA and restricts funding for humanitarian causes in the Palestinian territories. The bill was approved with an overwhelming majority of 361-37.
The Senate is to take up its own version of the anti-Hamas bill in the near future, a bill which is similar to that of the House but contains more moderate language and enables the president to use his waiver to override the legislation.
The House vote took place only hours before Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was scheduled to begin his first meeting with US President George W. Bush at the White House. Olmert is to speak to both chambers of Congress on Wednesday.
Israel expressed support for the House legislation, and Israeli officials denied reports that the bill was too harsh and did not reflect Israeli policy.
The House debated the bill for three hours on Monday night. Supporters of the bill stressed the need to send a message to the Hamas-led PA that the US would not have any kind of ties with an entity led by a terror group.
Those against the bill argued that, while they did not want the US to deal with terrorists, they believed the language of the bill was too broad and did not distinguish between funding the PA and aiding Palestinians who were not involved in terror.
The administration also called for modifying the bill in such a way as to allow the president more flexibility when dealing with the PA in the future.
According to the bill, sponsored by Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehiten (R-Florida) and Tom Lantos (D-California), the US will not provide any funds to the PA unless the president proves to Congress that all funding recipients are not ruled by a terror group and that the PA has acknowledged Israel's right to exist and committed itself to all prior agreement with Israel. The bill also limits aid to NGOs and allows the US to fund only organizations that deal with basic health needs.
According to the bill the US will also have no diplomatic ties with the PA, will close the PLO office in Washington and limit the movement of Palestinian UN delegates.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which lobbied heavily for the bill, said Tuesday that "Congress made it clear that Hamas's decision to continue its support for terrorism has direct and immediate consequences."