US Jewish groups pressing Congress to halt aid to PA

Abbas needs to stop paying terrorists’ salaries right now, says Malcolm Hoenlein; Morton Klein says ZOA speaking with congressmen.

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August 5, 2011 05:36
3 minute read.
Joint session of the US Congress

Joint session of the US Congress 311 (R). (photo credit: Jim Young / Reuters)

 
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Jewish organizations in America have expressed concern with regard to the ongoing financial aid provided by the US to the Palestinian Authority.

Morton Klein, national president of the Zionist Organization of America, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that the organization is conducting conversations with US congressmen through which they are seeking to end US aid to the PA in light of the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation agreement signed in April; as well as a recent report from Israeli lobbying group Palestinian Media Watch, which states the PA is paying salaries to 5,500 Palestinian prisoners convicted of terrorist offenses, totaling $5.2 million a month.

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The unity deal signed between Hamas and Fatah on April 27 is yet to be implemented due to a number of serious disagreements between the two sides.

Speaking to the Post, a State Department official said the direct budget support provided by the US does not go toward PA salaries at all and is used instead to pay debts owed by the PA to private sector entities with contracts providing goods and services to the Palestinian government.

“We are broadly continuing to assess the Palestinian government in light of the recent reconciliation agreement and plan to determine our assistance according to US law as and when a new Palestinian government is formed,” the official said, adding the State Department believes PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad have illustrated that they are “firm in their opposition to acts of violence and terrorism.”

Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Malcolm Hoenlein said the fact that the PA is rewarding “terrorists” on an ongoing basis is unacceptable, especially at a time when it is claiming that it cannot pay the wages of its civil servants and public workers.



“Funds are fungible, but the real issue here is not the US, it’s the Palestinian Authority,” Hoenlein said in comments to the Post. “If the PA is serious about sending the right message then it should stop these salaries now.”

He added that one option the US could consider would be to deduct the sum the PA spends on the prisoners from the US aid-package to the Palestinian government.

The dovish J Street organization said it believes continued international aid to the Palestinian Authority is “essential for Israel’s present security and the prospects for peace,” pointing out the US Security Coordinator for Israel and the PA, Lt.-Gen.

Mike Moeller told Congress in July that US assistance and cooperation has made PA security forces into a “trusted, capable partner” for the Israeli security establishment.

“We have no doubt that cutting or imposing insurmountable new preconditions on aid to the Palestinian Authority would jeopardize Israel’s security and strengthen Hamas,” the statement said.

In 2010, the US gave $600m. to the PA, including $225m. in direct budgetary assistance. The Palestinian Authority is currently facing a financial crisis.

According to Palestinian news agency Ma’an, Salam Fayyad said last week the PA urgently needs $300m. to ease its cash crisis, blaming the failure of foreign donor countries, particularly Arab governments, to deliver on their aid pledges.

A public sector strike was staved off on Sunday after the PA said it would pay full salaries for July. The Palestinian government was only able to pay half-wages in June to the 170,000 people on its payroll.

The Palestinian Media Watch report pointed out that the terms of the 2010 appropriations act for monetary assistance to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip insist that assistance not be provided to any individuals or government entities that engage, or have engaged, in terrorist activity.

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