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Congress says possible Palestinian unity gov’t must recognize Israel as a Jewish state in order to receive aid
January 13, 2015
Congress has passed provisions that immediately end funding to the Palestinian Authority in the event of a unity government with Hamas, or a joint government where Hamas exercises “undue influence.” Though, there is one exception. If a supposed unity government recognizes Israel as a Jewish state, the aid will continue.
The limitation to the Palestinian Authority’s assistance became law on December 16, 2014 as a section in the U.S.’s annual budget on bilateral support. The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2015 requires a series of redlines to be met on support to the Palestinian government. Notably, no funds “may be obligated for salaries of personnel of the Palestinian Authority located in Gaza,” and no funds can go to a “power-sharing government of which Hamas is a member, or that results from an agreement with Hamas and over which Hamas exercises undue influence.”
The exemption in the law states a unity government can continue to receive American support, which today runs at $430 million per year, if they: “publicly acknowledged the Jewish state of Israel’s right to exist,” and re-commit to the Bush administration’s Roadmap outlined in 2003, which details a process for a two-states solution.
Language regarding Hamas and U.S. bilateral support was first added by congress to the foreign aid budget following Hamas’s 2006 ascension to power in the Gaza Strip. “Congress has put itself very clearly on the record when it comes to Hamas participation in a Palestinian government,” noted Americans For Peace Now’s Lara Friedman. From that time incremental restrictions have made their way into congressional appropriations, but it was not until 2014 that U.S. elected officials incorporated all of the cut off points to Palestinian Authority aid and added the note about recognizing Israel as a Jewish state. Those restrictions were first outlined in June 2014, two months after the Palestinian leadership announced a merger with Hamas officials in forming the National Consensus Government.
However, the Palestinians have a loophole. There is no “unity government” per se, the arrangement they have today is a “National Consensus Government” that does not accept Hamas as a partner.
“There are no political parties in the National Consensus Government,” said the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s spokesperson Xavier Abu Eid. He added the overarching Palestinian government is one of technocrats where membership by any party—Hamas or Fatah—is banned. Officials in the government enter as individuals with no recognized affiliation. Of course leaders who are in Palestinian political parties fill the government. But the current and expected future arrangement is that their party relationships stay outside of the consensus authority’s doors.
Limiting the U.S.’s annual allocations to the Palestinians, which has been close to $400 million since 2008, has been a longstanding U.S. policy. In the 1980s language was added to the foreign aid omnibus on immediately ending support to the Palestinians if they join any international agencies, which includes the International Criminal Court. However, Palestinians have already tested the waters on America’s willingness to suspend funds when they joined UNESCO in 2011. At that time Congress delayed the Palestinian Authorities regular disbursements, but did not axe funding altogether.
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