US lawmakers question aid to new Palestinian unity government

The US Congress authorizes $500 million in annual aid Washington sends to the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority.

PA President Abbas with US President Obama, March 17 2014 (photo credit: REUTERS)
PA President Abbas with US President Obama, March 17 2014
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – Congress spoke with one voice on Monday against the formation of a unified Palestinian Authority endorsed by Hamas, threatening to discontinue US aid just as the Obama administration said it would work with the new government.
US financial aid to the PA through 2014 has already been appropriated by the US Congress.
But the funds have not been obligated: the State Department must approve requests by the PA on how the funds will be allocated.
Funding for 2015 has not yet been drafted, however, and already, members of the appropriations committees on Capitol Hill are suggesting a cut in aid because of the deal.
“As long as Hamas rejects the Quartet principles and the existence of the State of Israel, United States funding for this unity government is in jeopardy,” said Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY), ranking member on the House Appropriations Committee, expressing “deep disappointment” with the development.
“Hamas is no partner for peace, nor a legitimate recipient of aid,” Congressman Ed Royce (R-CA), chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement. “While the ‘unity government’ hides behind the facade of nonpartisan bureaucrats, it was only born out of support from Hamas – a terrorist organization that continues to call for Israel’s annihilation.”
American Jewish organizations reacted to the announcement in its own unified alignment on Monday, roundly condemning the move.
“The Fatah-Hamas unity government is a marriage involving an unabashed terrorist partner and, therefore, another setback to any prospect for peace,” said David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee said its leadership was “greatly concerned and disappointed,” and suggested it would push for a cutoff in aid.
US law is clear – no funds can be provided to a Palestinian government in which Hamas participates or has undue influence,” the AIPAC statement read. “We now urge Congress to conduct a thorough review of continued US assistance to the Palestinian Authority to ensure that the law is completely followed and implemented.”
J Street focused on the twostate solution, echoing the State Department’s approach, hoping for the best from the government ostensibly full of independent technocrats unaffiliated with either party.
“The potential benefit of political unification is that it allows the Palestinian president to negotiate with Israel on behalf of all Palestinians,” J Street said. “The true test of the new Palestinian government should be the policies it follows.”