- Unbeliebable: White House turns Bieber petition response into immigration screed
- Obama signs law denying Iran ambassador’s visa, but says law is ‘advisory’
- Mich. judge to laughing convicted killer: ‘I hope you die in prison’
- Man charged in Kansas City-area highway shootings
- Keystone XL pipeline still on hold after State Dept. decision
- Fla. man charged with killing 16-month-old son to play Xbox undisturbed
- Drones from the deep: Pentagon develops ocean-floor attack robots
- Michigan mayor slaps back atheists’ try to erect ‘reason station’ at city hall
- PHILLIPS: Where is the conservative establishment?
- 7.5-magnitude earthquake shakes southern Mexico
MOWBRAY: Caution sign for Palestinian pact
Fatah linkup with terror-prone Hamas could end U.S. funds
While most of the Arab world has zigged, the Palestinian establishment has zagged. As “Arab streets” rise up and many of their governments are teetering or have fallen, the two rival Palestinian factions - the terrorist organization Hamas and the “moderate” Fatah party - are attempting a unity government that would ensure continued power for the society’s favored few.
Fatah’s leader, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, may have started a unity process to stave off possible grass-roots uprisings, or perhaps he wanted to unite all of Palestinian society in advance of a possible United Nations resolution in September that would unilaterally declare Palestinian statehood. Regardless, he apparently was not terribly concerned about the U.S. reaction.
Given how long it has taken President Obama to act decisively in more pressing situations in Egypt and Libya, no one is expecting the White House to act quickly to derail the internal Palestinian pact.
But that won’t stop Congress from swinging into action.
Even with Congress in recess last week, top Democratic Reps. Nita M. Lowey and Gary L. Ackerman, both from New York, wasted no time in condemning any partnership with Hamas and vowing congressional action.
The least of the PA’s concerns would be losing direct funding, which is only a fraction of overall U.S. support.
Although current law allows the president a national security waiver to release funds to a Hamas-partnered government, Mr. Obama would face a rebellion within his own party from hawkish members and most of the Jewish members, many of whom hold very senior positions. It is difficult to conceive of Mr. Obama picking a high-profile fight with his own party heading into a re-election effort in which he can’t afford to squander votes.
One of the first casualties beyond direct funding would seem to be the U.S. training of Palestinian security forces, led by Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton. Those forces are being trained, in essence, to fight Hamas - a goal that would be rendered moot.
The biggest chunk of “indirect” aid to the Palestinians comes through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which has been helping the Palestinians build physical and civilian infrastructure. USAID has been much more active in the West Bank than in Gaza since Hamas rose to power, mostly to strengthen the “moderate” Fatah party relative to Hamas and to help prepare for statehood.
With Hamas possibly linking arms with Fatah, that rationale no longer holds. At the very least, Congress is likely to tighten restrictions on USAID even further to prevent any strengthening of Hamas or its affiliates.
“It’s important for the Palestinians to understand that the entirety of their U.S. foreign aid is at risk,” warns Rep. Steven R. Rothman, New Jersey Democrat, who sits on the foreign aid spending panel and is responsible for drafting many of the restrictions designed to prevent funding of entities affiliated with Hamas or other terrorist groups. “But first we need to step back and take a look at what this unity government means and how long it lasts.”
Whether or not a unity government actually happens - one proposed in 2009 fell apart and the “successful” unity in 2007 ended four months later in a bloody Hamas coup in Gaza - Congress is certain to put all Palestinian funding under a microscope.
Because this has happened before, there already are structures in place to deal with a Hamas-partnered government. The reaction this time around, however, likely will be much harsher than in 2007, noted a Republican Hill staffer, “because that followed an election that we supported and Hamas won.” This time around, no such justification exists.
Congress also could look closer to home to apply pressure. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) mission in Washington, which opened in 1994, enjoyed an upgrade in status last summer - essentially a step toward formal diplomatic relations - a major political victory.
Now it could be closed.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
TWT Video Picks
Women losing coverage under Obamacare, too
Get Breaking Alerts
- Scalia to students on high taxes: At a certain point, 'perhaps you should revolt'
- Former Ranger breaks silence on Pat Tillman death: I may have killed him
- Special Forces' suicide rates hit record levels casualties of 'hard combat'
- Feds approve powdered alcohol; 'Palcohol' available later this year
- Nancy Pelosi washes immigrants' feet in humble Holy Week act then promotes on Twitter
- Justice at last: 'Evil woman' outed for grabbing girl's game ball
- Army goes to war with National Guard, seizes Apache attack helicopters
- Russian fighter jet buzzes U.S. Navy destroyer in Black Sea
- EDITORIAL: Mark Warner running scared?
- Harry Reid blasts Bundy ranch supporters as 'domestic terrorists'