Senate Supermajority Puts White House on Notice About Palestinian Aid
The Senate ganged up this afternoon on an administration that is continuing aid to the Palestinian Authority despite its unity pact with Hamas.
In fact, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said today that the latest rocket fire from Gaza into Israel would not affect U.S. aid to the Palestinians.
"Obviously, we’re concerned about it and we condemn it in the strongest terms. But his – President Abbas’s ability to impact these type of attacks is really severely limited at this point in time," Psaki told reporters.
"This was the creation of an interim technocratic government. Obviously, at some point there will be elections. This is an interim period," she continued. "As we’ve long stated, we’ll – we’re continuing assistance if we – but we’ll be watching closely and if something changes, so we’ll act accordingly."
Psaki said assistance would continue "because the Palestinian people and our relationship with the Palestinian Authority is an important relationship to the United States."
"We made a decision as the United States Government that our assistance to the Palestinian Authority is important to the United States. And so that’s why it is continuing."
However, a supermajority of the Senate isn't on board.
Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) led the letter signed by a total of 88 senators expressing "strong reservations" about U.S. policy toward the new Palestinian unity government.
"We are gravely concerned that the formation of this government and President Abbas’ renewed effort to upgrade the status of the Palestinians within international organizations will jeopardize direct negotiations with Israel to achieve a two-state solution," the letter states.
"By its actions and inaction, Hamas has demonstrated it is not a partner for peace. Hamas has openly called for Israel’s destruction and last month Hamas leaders again repeated their refusal to meet recognized international demands: recognition of Israel, renunciation of terror, and acceptance of previous Israel-PLO agreements."
The senators note that continuing to provide assistance runs afoul of the law.
"Recent events have consequences as to U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority as provided for in the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006 and restrictions contained in the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2014, including prohibiting foreign assistance to Hamas or any power-sharing government of which Hamas is a member or over which Hamas has undue influence," the letter continues.
"These troubling developments, including the role played by Hamas in the formation of the government, have undermined Congressional support for U.S. assistance to the Palestinians. Any assistance should only be provided when we have confidence that this new government is in full compliance with the restrictions contained in current law. We urge you to continue to impress on President Abbas the need for him to cease any alliance with terrorist organizations such as Hamas and to return to the negotiating table with Israel."