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Senators Demand a Halt to U.S. Funds for Palestinian Authority

June 13th 2014

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Khaled Mashaal of Hamas and Mahmoud Abbas of Palestinian Authority

Senators Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) issued a statement in which they called upon the Obama administration to halt and then review U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority following President Abbas’ announcement of a new Hamas-backed transitional government. The statement said, "Israel has gone to great lengths in recent months to negotiate in good faith with the Palestinian Authority, but President Abbas’ announcement earlier today of a Hamas-backed Palestinian transitional government makes clear once again that Israel does not have a viable partner for peace."

Making clear the stakes for U.S. taxpayers, the senators said “The United States has given more than $5 billion to the Palestinians over the last several decades. U.S. assistance to the Palestinians has played an important role in helping to ensure Israel’s security and promoting stability in Palestinian controlled areas. Current U.S. law is clear – any government over which an unreformed Hamas exercises undue influence and which emerges from a Fatah/Hamas deal is not an appropriate recipient of U.S. assistance. The naming of a technocratic slate of ministers by President Abbas seems to be an attempted end run around these obligations."

Moreover, the two Republican senators expressed frustration with President Obama. “The administration's initial reaction to continue aid is troubling and runs counter to existing law. We call on the Obama administration to enforce the law. U.S. credibility as well as Israel’s security are at stake.”

Making clear their reasoning that continued taxpayer funding of Palestine is an effective subsidy of the Hamas terrorist organization, which seeks to destroy both Israel and the United States, the pair continued, “Hamas remains a terrorist group that has killed Americans. Its leaders continue to refuse to accept Israel’s right to exist. One month ago, we wrote to Secretary of State Kerry and urged him to state clearly the U.S. position regarding assistance to a power-sharing government backed by Hamas. We have yet to receive an answer."

Kirk and Rubio are calling for the cessation of funding Palestine unless Hamas publicly accepts Israel's right to exist and swear to cease its terrorist activities. "U.S. assistance should be halted and reviewed. Unless Hamas publicly accepts Israel’s right to exist and ceases its support for terrorism, U.S. aid should be suspended to any Palestinian government over which Hamas exercises influence," they wrote in the June 2 statement.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas swore in a unity government on that same day, having reconciled with Hamas Islamists, and organization which the U.S. views as a terrorist organization and that advocates Israel's destruction.

Last year, Congress imposed restrictions on funding for the Palestinian Authority, which is typically $500 million per annum, should it enter into a unity government.

Commenting on the new government, the Obama administration appeared agnostic as to influence the Hamas terrorists have with the Palestinian government. Speaking to reporters on June 2, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said the administration is willing to do business with the PA since it views Hamas' participation as "technocratic" in nature. "At this point, it appears that President Abbas has formed an interim technocratic government that does not include ministers affiliated with Hamas," said Psaki.

"Based on what we know now we intend to work with this government but will be watching closely to ensure that it upholds principles that President Abbas reiterated today," she said in reference to Abbas' commitment to peace. 

The latest Hamas rocket attack on Israel came on June 11, prompting an Israeli airstrike in retaliation. Of the rocket attack, Psaki would not say whether the Obama administration will hold the PA unity government responsible. "We condemn all rocket fire from Gaza. It is unprovoked aggression against civilian targets and is totally unacceptable," she said. "We expect the Palestinian Authority will do everything in its power to prevent attacks from Gaza into Israel, but we acknowledge the reality that Hamas currently controls Gaza," Psaki added.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he wanted to "remind" the world that PA leader Abbas had pledged the unity government would uphold its agreements. "This means that he is responsible for dismantling Hamas and other terror groups" in Gaza, said Netanyahu. As for a condemnation of the attack issued by Abbas' office, Netanyahu dismissed it as "empty rhetoric,, even while the Obama administration welcomed it.

Cutting Edge Contributor Martin Barillas also edits Speroforum.com

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