US Congress works to ban Hamas

Although Bush okayed Hamas part in elections, Capitol Hill may change policy.

hamas men masked 298 (photo credit: AP [file])
hamas men masked 298
(photo credit: AP [file])
While the US administration has agreed to accept the participation of Hamas activists in the Palestinian elections, Congress is working on a resolution that will ban Hamas from taking part in the election process and that threatens that the relations between the Palestinian Authority and the US would be damaged if the PA does not disarm Hamas. House Resolution 575 was introduced last Friday by a group of Republican and Democratic congressmen and was referred to the House International Relations committee. A similar letter is circulating now in Senate. The resolution asserts that terrorist groups such as the Hamas should not be allowed to take part in the elections and calls on Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas to declare, prior to the elections, his intention to dismantle the terrorist organizations operating in the territories. The most significant provision in the suggested resolution threatens Abbas with losing US support if he allows Hamas to take part in the elections before disarming and before recognizing Israel's right to exist. The resolution notes that including Hamas in the process "will inevitably raise serious policy considerations for the United States" and adds that it could "undermine the continued ability of the United States to provide financial assistance and conduct normal relations the Palestinian Authority." Even if this resolution passes congress, it still does not have much practical significance, because foreign policy issues are determined by the administration, not by congress. Yet the fact that US lawmakers are threatening to curb financial assistance to the PA is noteworthy, because any authorization of foreign aid assistance needs to go through congress. The US administration has reluctantly agreed to allow the Hamas take part in the January elections after Abbas convinced President George W. Bush that he could not take on the group before the elections. Israel has also made clear it would not intervene even if Hamas candidates take part in the process. Pro-Israel activists on Capitol Hill are supporting the new resolution, pointing out that it can send Abbas a strong message and make him know that "he is facing a problem after the elections" if he allows the Hamas to participate.