US Congress to reconsider Palestinian aid after formation of PLO-Hamas unity government

The US Congress is examining the process required to cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority following  the PA announcement of its intention to form a unity government with Hamas, reports The Jerusalem Post.

A subcommittee on the Middle East in the House of Representatives will hold a hearing on the matter on Thursday. The fundamental requirement for a Palestinian government including Hamas to continue receiving aid is the recognition of Israel – a step that Hamas adamantly refuses to take.

Hamas' charter calls for the elimination of the Israel, and for the killing of Jews worldwide.

New York Democratic Congressman Eliot Engel, ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said no new bill is required for aid to be cut to the Palestinian government.

"I don't believe legislation is necessary," Engel said, noting that existing legislation triggers a cut in aid. "That's law."

Senators Marco Rubio and Mark Kirk wrote a letter this week to Secretary of State John Kerry laying out the position that existing appropriations law supports an aid cutoff. 

They noted that the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006 set detailed requirements for the continuation of U.S. assistance should Hamas be brought into the Palestinian Authority government: Hamas' public acknowledgement of the Jewish state of Israel’s right to exist; acceptance of all previous agreements the Palestinians have made with Israel, the United States, and the international community; demonstrable progress toward dismantling of Hamas’ terrorist infrastructure and purging of individuals with ties to terrorism; and halting anti-American and anti-Israel incitement.

The Palestinians seem to be trying to walk a fine line by signaling that they will appoint a technocratic government selected jointly by Hamas and Fatah which they could claim does not constitute a government with Hamas participation.  But Congress is unlikely to ignore Hamas participation in Palestinian authority government in whatever form it takes.

Should Hamas join the Palestinian Authority government, it could prompt a re-designation of the PLO as a terrorist group.  Besides the aid cutoff, that designation could also prompt the freezing of assets including the PLO Embassy and other holdings around the world in dollar denominations.


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