The State Department said yesterday it is seeking release of $495.7 million in U.S. funds for the Palestinian Authority designated for 2012, and another $200 million designated so far for 2013 – all of which is currently subject to a congressional hold imposed after the PA sought UN recognition as a “state” and began yet another “reconciliation” with Hamas. At yesterday’s State Department press conference, spokesperson Victoria Nuland was asked to “give us a sense of where things are with Congress” on this issue and responded that the administration is working with Congress to get the money released to the PA, because:
“[W]e think it’s very, very important that they remain effective in supporting the needs of the Palestinian people … So we’re continuing to work through this. I would simply say that the Secretary feels extremely strongly that it is time now to get this support to the Palestinian Authority.” [Emphasis added]
Ms. Nuland said Secretary Kerry has been raising this issue “in every conversation he’s had with his colleagues” in Congress. But if it is very, very important to get the money to the PA, and if Secretary Kerry feels extremely strongly that now is the time, the people he should be talking to are not in Congress. They are in the PA.
The PA can get the money released by assuring the U.S. that they will (1) not take further steps to change the legal status of the disputed territories outside negotiations with Israel (since the Palestinians promised in the Oslo agreement not to take “any [such] step”); and (2) not reconcile with an organization designated by the U.S. government as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), a Specially Designated Terrorist (SDT), and a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) — particularly when the PA promised in the Road Map to dismantle the FTO/SDT/SDGT, which has now waged two rocket wars against Israel and refuses to endorse any of the Quartet requirements for the “peace process.”
If it is not important to the PA to provide such assurances, it is hard to see why it is important for the U.S. to provide more money (much less nearly $700 million), nor why anyone would feel that now is the time to do it. On the contrary, this would seem to be the appropriate time to communicate that violating promises – and refusing to promise to abide by them in the future — has consequences. The administration should be telling the PA it feels extremely strongly that it is very, very important to provide the assurances now. Instead, it is pressing Congress to waive them.
In his first week in office, the new secretary of state has just sent a strong message that he believes the PA’s refusal to confirm its two central promises should draw no penalty. He thinks the problem is not the PA, but the Congress. Heckuva job, John.