US bill meant to twist Hamas's arm

House passes proposal forcing group to recognize Israel, join peace talks.

hamas flags 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
hamas flags 88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The House of Representatives gave final passage Thursday to a bill aimed at forcing the Palestinians' ruling Hamas government to accept Israel and join negotiations toward a Palestinian state in formerly Israeli-occupied territory. House passage, by voice vote, came a day after the Iraq Study Group Report urged President George W. Bush's administration to reinvigorate the effort to settle the half-century-old Israeli-Palestinian dispute. "This bipartisan legislation gives incentives to the Palestinian Authority to take another step toward joining the community of peaceful nations and a step away from the abyss of supporting terrorism," Sen. Mitch McConnell, Republican chief sponsor of the bill, said in a statement. It also gives the president broad authority to waive penalties if he deems it in the country's best interests. In passing the Senate bill, the House turned its back on a much harsher bill of its own. The Senate passed the bill earlier. The bill going to Bush would cut off aid to the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Authority unless it acknowledges Israel's right to exist, accepts all the authority's agreements with Israel and proceeds toward dismantling the Palestinian terrorist infrastructure among other things. In essence the legislation codifies administration policy. Bush stopped all but humanitarian aid when Hamas took over the government and has not resumed it. The New York-based Israel Policy Forum advocacy group welcomed acceptance of the Senate bill rather than the House version. "In the wake of the Iraq Study Group's strong endorsement of a reinvigorated Israeli-Palestinian peace process, this legislation gives the president the authority and latitude he needs to advance Israeli-Palestinian negotiations," forum President Seymour D. Reich said. He said the law will institute "a system to encourage the Palestinian Authority to fully renounce violence and recognize the state of Israel."