Three high-ranking U.S. legislators have warned that the Palestinian Authority could lose U.S. financial assistance in the wake of a reported reconciliation between the Fatah political party led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Hamas, which the U.S. State Department classifies as a terrorist group.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), who heads the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said April 27 that the reported agreement between the two political parties “means that a Foreign Terrorist Organization which has called for the destruction of Israel will be part of the Palestinian Authority government.”
“According to existing U.S. law, such a hybrid government cannot be a recipient of U.S. taxpayer funds because the law stipulates that the PA government must recognize the Jewish state of Israel’s right to exist, among other things,” Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement quoted by Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post’s “Right Turn” blog. “Therefore, in order to implement existing law, the U.S. must end assistance to the Palestinian Authority.”
In a separate statement, Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.), the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, noted that the United States will be compelled by “law and decency” to halt any aid that could fall even in partial control of a terrorist group such as Hamas.
Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), the top Democrat on the House Appropriations subcommittee on state and foreign operations, voiced a similar warning, arguing that a unity government between Fatah and Hamas would put U.S. aid at risk.
No immediate aid suspension
The State Department assured Thursday (April 28) that there will be no immediate suspension of U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority following the unity deal, but stressed that future support is contingent on the new Palestinian government.
Some $400 million in annual U.S. aid would be evaluated against policies of the new Palestinian government, according to the department.
“The current Palestinian government remains in place and our assistance programs continue,” State Department spokeswoman Heide Bronke-Fulton told Reuters in an email. “If a new Palestinian government is formed, we will assess it based on its policies at that time and will determine the implications for our assistance based on U.S. law.”
Read more about U.S. development aid.