The Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives is expected to vote today to add conditions to U.S. aid to the Palestinians that will be tantamount to a cutoff.
The measure, part of the State Department financing bill, is likely to pass the Republican-controlled House but is expected to be dropped when it is reconciled with the Democratic-controlled Senate’s version of the same legislation. According to the Jerusalem Post, the rationale for the Democrats’ decision to spike a laundry list of pro-Israel items will be an interesting one: the Israelis themselves don’t want the U.S. to cut off aid to the Palestinians.
The bill will require that aid be halted if Hamas plays any role in the PA in the future and will also require the PA to stop all incitement against Israel and Jews. The bill will also specifically endorse President Bush’s 2004 letter to Israel promising U.S. support for Israel’s retention of Jerusalem and the settlement blocs in a peace deal and end the waiver that has allowed presidents to evade previous legislation that mandated the United States must move its embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. It also includes a measure banning aid to Lebanon if Hezbollah joins its government.
According to the Post, Democratic sources on the Hill claim the Israelis want the aid to continue to flow no matter what the Palestinians have done, though they admit if Hamas formally takes control of part of the PA government, there will be no question of any more American money going to it.
While the truth of this assertion depends upon whom in Israel you are talking to, the Democrats do have a point about Israelis wanting the PA to be able to function. Israel needs a Palestinian interlocutor no matter how dismal the chances for peace may be. Even if the PA’s leadership is incapable of signing a peace agreement, Israel has no wish to directly govern the vast majority of Arabs living in the territories. It would be quite happy were PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad allowed to go on with his state-building measures whose purpose is to build a viable Palestinian economy and infrastructure. But Fayyad has little support even within the ruling Fatah Party, and his future is uncertain because of opposition from Hamas in the wake of the terrorist group’s unity pact with Fatah.
As the PA seeks to evade peace talks via its United Nations gambit and embraces the Islamists of Hamas, the rationale for American support for Fatah’s government is evaporating. By continuing to support the Palestinians with U.S. taxpayer money even after the unity pact with Hamas, the Obama administration is sending them a destructive message. Far from being a pointless case of pandering to the pro-Israel community, now is exactly the moment when the United States ought to put the PA on notice that ongoing American support will be dependent on their good behavior. That means an end to efforts to circumvent the peace process and incitement to hatred against Jews in their official media.
As for Jerusalem, the waiver the Committee seeks to end made a joke out of the 1995 legislation that mandated the movement of the embassy. But even without the waiver, it is doubtful Congress can force the executive branch to act on this measure. The embassy issue, which was an evergreen of pro-Israel politics for decades, has faded in recent years as both Israel and American Jews realized the effort was futile. It is doubtful any American president will ever move the embassy in advance of a comprehensive peace deal, and the odds of such an accord ever being signed are slim and none.
While the House’s pro-Israel effort will probably be shot down in the Senate, the Republican majority on the Foreign Affairs Committee still deserves praise for firing a shot over Obama’s bow on these issues. The day is coming when it will no longer be possible to defend the ongoing flow of American funds to an entity in bed with terrorists. Sooner or later, American aid to the PA is going to end.