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Friday, April 29, 2011

Rubio calls for aid cutoff to 'Palestinian Authority'

Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fl) has called on the Obama administration to cut off aid to the 'Palestinian Authority' in light of the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation agreement.
“The announced agreement, if it becomes reality, would be a major setback for peace efforts in the Middle East and is not in the best interest of the Palestinian people. Participation in a Palestinian government of any organization, such as Hamas, that fails to renounce their calls for the destruction of Israel and the use of violence should prompt the withdrawal of our assistance. No American taxpayer money should fund a government that includes a terrorist organization dedicated to the murder of innocent civilians.”
Jennifer Rubin reports that the Obama administration has very little wiggle room, and may not only have to cut off aid to the 'Palestinian Authority,' but also, if Hamas joins the PLO (as they have declared their intention to do), the US may be required to expel the recently upgraded PLO representation from the US.
Since fiscal year 2005, annual foreign operations appropriations bills have included a prohibition on funding Hamas and the PLO, the relevant language being:
PROHIBITION TO HAMAS AND THE PALESTINE LIBERATION ORGANIZATION.— (1) None of the funds appropriated in titles III through VI of this Act may be obligated for salaries of personnel of the Palestinian Authority located in Gaza or may be obligated or expended for assistance to Hamas or any entity effectively controlled by Hamas or any power-sharing government of which Hamas is a member.
An expert on sanctions tells me the exception to this ban is limited: “In terms of U.S. aid, assistance may only be provided to a power-sharing government if the president certifies that such government, including all of its ministers or such equivalent, has publicly acknowledged the Jewish state of Israel’s right to exist; and committed itself and is adhering to all previous agreements and understandings with the United States Government, with the Government of Israel, and with the international community, including agreements and understandings pursuant to the Roadmap.” (The president alternatively can make a limited national security certification if it is in our national interest to provide assistance to the PA president’s security and administration, to help enforce border security and to assist the PA’s judiciary.)

Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies told me in a phone interview this morning, “There is precedent for this.” Schanzer explained that in April 2006 the United States cut off all aid to the PA after Hamas won elections. Only when Hamas staged a coup and Mahmoud Abbas set up a separate governing entity for the West Bank did we resume aid.

In the case of the current Fatah-Hamas merger, Schanzer argues that there is an immediate problem for the PA. Press reports suggest that Hamas is melding its operation into the PLO, the entity that does business and has offices in the United States. (In fact the Obama administration recently forked over more funds to upgrade these in anticipation of a peace agreement.) If this is correct, the offices would have to be closed and its representatives ejected from the country.
My question: If Hamas becomes part of the 'Palestinian Authority,' is the US required to allow Hamas representatives to be in the United States as part of the 'Palestinian Authority' observer mission? I would think not - as far as I know, the UN treaty only requires the US to admit representatives of 'states' (which is why Ahmadinejad and Gadhafi have been allowed to travel to the UN) and not representatives of terror organizations. And if the UN declares a state of 'Palestine'? I would argue that for the time being, at least, even if the UN declares it, a state of 'Palestine' would not have the required indicia under the Montevideo Convention.

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