capitol hill 88.
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The US Senate approved on Friday a bill that would ban direct financial aid to the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority and would put limits on humanitarian aid to the Palestinians.
The bill, approved unanimously in a voice vote, also restricts diplomatic ties with Palestinian officials who are part of the Hamas government.
The Senate version of the Palestinian Anti-Terror Act of 2006 differs from the House version of the bill on several points. The bill approved by Senate gives the US president more flexibility in waiving the provisions against the PA and is less restrictive on the issue of providing US assistance to non-governmental organizations operating in the Palestinian territories.
The differences between the two versions reflect the dissatisfaction of the administration with the House version, which was seen by the State Department as too restrictive. The difference between the two versions will now be ironed out in the Conference Committee.
According to the legislation, the PA will be allowed to receive US financial assistance only after it accepts the three conditions set forth by the quartet: recognition of Israel, renunciation of terror and acceptance of existing agreements between Israel and the PA.
The only exception for direct US assistance to the PA is transfer of funds to the office of PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
The bill also restricts Palestinian diplomats representing the PA or the PLO both in Washington and in the UN delegation in New York.
The anti-Hamas bill was a source of contention between different Jewish groups lobbying Congress on this issue. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) strongly supported both versions of the bill and was a driving force in getting the legislation approved in record time.
At the same time, several smaller dovish Jewish groups, such as Americans for Peace Now, Israel Policy Forum and Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, lobbied against the House version and supported only the more moderate Senate language.
Yet all groups welcomed the Friday vote in Senate. AIPAC issued a statement saying that "The swift passage and strong bipartisan support for the legislation in both chambers sends a clear message that Hamas's decision to continue its support for terrorism has direct and immediate consequences."
APN also welcomed the passage of the Senate bill, which it described as "light years apart" from the House version and Brit Tzedek v'Shalom said in a statement that the Senate version is "a marked improvement" to the one passed last month by the House.