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US legislators threaten $550 M loss
Question of the Day
On Wednesday, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas announced an agreement stating an intent to form a unity government. Hamas is a U.S.-designated terrorist organization that is the effective ruler of Gaza. The agreement also promises to hold elections within a year.
The Palestinian Authority is set to receive $550 million in aid from the United States this year. But that funding is in danger.
A letter sent to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday from Rep. Kay Granger, Texas Republican, and Rep. Nita M. Lowey, New York Democrat, threatens to cut off the U.S. money if Mr. Abbas moves forward with plans to join forces with Hamas.
“We have been strong supporters of aid to the Palestinian Authority in the hopes of ensuring prosperity, stability, and peace for the Palestinian people and all people in the region,” the two lawmakers stated. “However, our ability to support current and future aid would be severely threatened if you abandon direct negotiations with Israel and continue with your current efforts.”
Ms. Granger is chairwoman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on state, foreign operations and related programs, which controls foreign aid to the Palestinian Authority. Ms. Lowey is the ranking member of the subcommittee.
Hamas won a greater percentage of seats to the Palestinian legislature in 2006, but Fatah refused to give control of ministries to Hamas legislators at the urging of Israel and the United States. In 2007, Hamas gunmen took over the security ministries in Gaza, and they have exercised local control of that territory since then.
Ms. Granger and Ms. Lowey stated that “U.S. aid is predicated on the premise that your government has demonstrated a firm commitment to pursuing efforts to establish a just, lasting, and comprehensive peace with Israel.”
Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood affiliate for the Palestinian territories, has rejected negotiations with Israel over an end to the conflict and considers a Jewish state in the territory to be illegitimate.
Administration officials on Thursday said they would not support the Fatah-Hamas unity government unless it commits to principles spelled out by the so-called Quartet, a group comprising the United States, the United Nations, Russia and the European Union that looks to negotiate a peaceful settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Those conditions include recognition of prior agreements between the Palestinians and the Israelis.
European Union officials on Thursday said they would study the Palestinian proposal.
The move for a unity government comes as Mr. Abbas is pushing to pass a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood at the U.N. General Assembly in September. The State Department also has said it opposes the unilateral declaration.
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