US c'tee moves to control Egypt, PA money

Palestinians would see funding withheld if they made any agreement with Hamas, didn't actively work to end incitement.

US Congress 390 (photo credit: REUTERS)
US Congress 390
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – A congressional subcommittee approved a foreign aid budget tightening control over money to Egypt and the Palestinians Wednesday following some members’ concern over developments in the region.
The House foreign operations appropriations subcommittee passed by voice vote the $40.1 billion foreign operations budget for 2013, which includes fully funding the $3.1b. US commitment to Israeli military assistance as part of the 10-year Memorandum of Understanding between the two countries.
However, the legislation cut funding for UNESCO, after the UN body voted to recognize Palestine as a member state. The Obama administration has been seeking a way to restore funding to the organization, though the law in its current format prohibits American contributions to any UN group that unilaterally recognizes the Palestinians.
The bill, which should be voted on by the entire appropriations committee next week, also maintains $1.3b. in military aid to Egypt as an ongoing commitment stemming from the Camp David Accords.
But following the Egyptian revolution and questions about its new government that will take power, Congress imposed more conditions on the military aid and $250m. in economic assistance.
Should Egypt break its treaty with Israel, as some emerging political voices have threatened, the assistance would automatically be cut. In addition, the US secretary of state would need to certify that upcoming elections are free and policies respecting civil rights are being implemented.
Though the secretary would have the ability to waive the restriction based on the elections if providing the aid to Egypt was declared in the national security interests of the United States, there is no waiver provision if the peace treaty ruptures.
The limitations stem in part from a desire by Congress to tighten control of allocations after US President Barack Obama used a waiver to override a member’s hold on funds to the Palestinian Authority last month, according to Capitol Hill sources.
Congress has also been upset by the detention of American pro-democracy NGO workers in Egypt, and has threatened aid to Egypt on this account as well.
The Palestinians would see their funding withheld if they made any agreement with Hamas and did not actively work to end incitement, a tightening of the current language ruling out aid under a unity government between Fatah and Hamas.
The bill cuts $2b. off last year’s budget and billions more from Obama’s proposal unveiled in February.