Congress Threatening Palestinian Aid

February "Washington Wednesday" Action Alert
February 1st, 2006

Since Monday, nearly 2,000 letters have been sent to Members of Congress telling them that cutting off aid to the Palestinian Authority is not the proper response to Hamas’ victory.There are now at least 4 bills in Congress threatening to do so.More letters are needed!Click here to send yours today.

START DATE: Immediately

END DATE: To be determined

BACKGROUND: Prior to the Palestinian legislative election, both Houses of Congress threatened to reevaluate relations with the Palestinian Authority (PA) if Hamas were to participate in the next Palestinian government.

The House of Representatives passed a resolution (H.Res.575) on Dec. 16 in which it stated that Hamas’ participation in the PA government “will inevitably raise serious questions for the United States about the commitment of the Palestinian Authority and its leadership to making peace with Israel and will potentially undermine the ability of the United States to have a constructive relationship with, or provide further assistance to, the Palestinian Authority.” [Emphasis added]

On Dec. 21, 73 Senators sent a “Dear Colleague” letter to President Bush stating that “if terrorist groups gain a substantial foothold in the Palestinian legislature, it will make it exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, for there to be any progress on the roadmap or on the road to achieving a two state solution.There would be even more severe policy implications if any such groups were then brought into the Palestinian Authority.The United States—and no doubt other countries as well—would have little choice but to reevaluate all aspects of our relations with the Palestinian Authority.” [Emphasis added]

Now that Hamas has won the Palestinian legislative election and will be asked to form the next PA government, Members of Congress have started to make good on these threats.Sen. John Thune (R-SD) introduced a concurrent resolution on Jan. 26 stating that “no United States assistance should be provided to the Palestinian Authority if any representative political party holding a majority of parliamentary seats within the Palestinian Authority maintains a position calling for the destruction of Israel.”

As of February 1, there are at least three different versions of similar bills that have been introduced in the House of Representatives.Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Tom Lantos (D-CA) co-sponsored the Palestinian Democracy Support Act of 2006, which seeks not only to cut off funding to the PA, but to withhold US dues to the UN proportional to the percentage of the UN budget that is spent protecting and advocating for Palestinian human rights, and deny visas to and place travel restrictions on PA representatives, and prohibit the opening of PA offices as well.Reps. Vito Fossella (R-NY) and Shelley Berkley (D-NV) have introduced similar legislation as well, although neither office has made public the text of these resolutions yet.

ACTION REQUESTED:Click here to email your Members of Congress and tell them that threatening to cut off aid to the PA is not the proper response to Hamas’ victory.

If you would prefer to call or fax your Member of Congress, contact information can be found at our Congressional Report Card.

TALKING POINTS:

* Palestinians should be congratulated, not admonished and threatened with diplomatic isolation and a cut off of aid, for conducting a free and fair, competitive, multi-party legislative election under harsh conditions of Israeli military occupation and besiegement, restrictions on their freedom of movement and ability to campaign freely, and other human rights violations.

* The United States professes to promote democracy abroad.Supporting democracy means supporting the results of free and fair elections as an expression of the self-determination of the people who cast ballots, even when the United States and its allies are not pleased with the outcome.

* There are indications that Hamas’ participation in the political process is having a moderating influence on its policies.Recently, Hamas has observed a PA-brokered cease-fire and pledged to maintain it as long as Israel does likewise, raised the possibility of accepting a two-state solution, and removed calls for the destruction of Israel from its election platform.If the United States were to boycott, sanction, or cut off aid to a Hamas-led PA, it could reverse this trend and exacerbate tensions.

* The United States provides virtually no direct assistance to the PA; almost all US aid projects to Palestinians are implemented by non-governmental organizations through contracts awarded and overseen by the US Agency for International Development.These humanitarian programs are important to the social and economic well-being of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories whose ability to earn a livelihood is drastically curtailed by Israel’s confiscation of Palestinian lands and water resources for illegal settlements, curtailment of freedom of movement by constructing a wall intended to annex Palestinian land to Israel, and other human rights violations.Cutting off this humanitarian aid would only cruelly punish people for exercising their right to vote.

Click here to email your Members of Congress and tell them that reevaluating relations with the PA and threatening to cut off aid is not the proper response to Hamas’ victory.

Make a tax-deductible contribution to the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.