Why Does Israel Still Transfer Money to the PA?


In forming this technocratic government, Hamas agreed to conditions it was never previously willing to accept, such as giving Abbas veto power over all ministers and approving the formation of a government in which it has no ministers, which is why this unity government might succeed.

— by Steve Sheffey

The pro-Israel community is concerned about the new Palestinian unity government.

Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL), a lifelong advocate for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship, a supporter of a two-state solution, and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued a statement on the subject last week:

I remain deeply concerned that the Palestinian Authority continues to move forward with a reconciliation government that includes the internationally-recognized terrorist group Hamas. Hamas continues to advocate violent action against Israel, and its political leadership refuses to recognize Israel.

Hamas’ participation in a unity government raises serious doubts as to the Palestinians’ commitment to a negotiated peace with Israel and raises significant questions regarding future U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority.

While I support efforts by the Palestinian Authority to form government institutions capable of representing the Palestinian people, a unity government with Hamas, without Hamas agreeing to the “Quartet Conditions,” which includes renouncing violence, recognizing Israel and honoring past agreements, will hinder the peace process and will not result in a future Palestinian state.

President Abbas must understand the two-state agreement can only be achieved through good faith negotiation with Israel. I hope he and his government will take the steps to further the prospects for peace for his people and the region.

More after the jump.
AIPAC called on Congress to suspend aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA), while Congress “conducts a thorough review of continued U.S. assistance to ensure that U.S. law, which prohibits to a Palestinian government in which Hamas participates or has undue influence, is completely followed and implemented.”

The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago wrote that the “inclusion of Hamas at any level of a Palestinian government undermines the goal of the United States and Israel for a negotiated settlement to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.”

Israel criticized the decision of the U.S. to work with the new Palestinian unity government. But the White House pointed out that the same day the technocratic Palestinian unity government was established, Israel transferred more than 500 million shekels (about $145 million) to the PA government.

Haaretz reported that a senior White House official said, “It is unclear to us why some in the Israeli political leadership are staking out such a hard line public position that is fundamentally at odds with their own actions.” The official added that the transfer “was no accident and reflects the Israeli establishment’s clear interest in maintaining a functioning and stable PA that can effectively administer Palestinian areas.”

Israel has no interest in seeing the PA collapse and their actions this week reinforce this clear-eyed understanding, despite what some Israeli officials are saying publicly.

Our position has consistently been that the threshold for working with a PA government is that it recognize the Quartet principles and doesn’t include or share power with Hamas. It is against our interest — and Israel’s interests — to cut ties with and funding to such a PA government. A functioning, stable PA serves our interests, Palestinian interests, and Israeli interests.

Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated that the “U.S. does not recognize a government with respect to Palestine because that would recognize a state and there is no state.”

Hamas is a terrorist organization. It has not accepted the Quartet principles. It continues to call for the destruction of Israel. It continues even as it moves into this new posture. And so we are obviously going to watch closely what happens, but we will… work with it in the constraints that we are obviously facing.

Unless Kerry is mistaken on the facts, the U.S. is not required by law to cut off funding. Kerry said last week that Abbas “made clear that this new technocratic government is committed to the principles of non violence, negotiations, recognizing the state of Israel, acceptance of the previous agreements and the Quartet principles.”

Based on what we know now about the composition of this technocratic government, which has no minister affiliated to Hamas and is committed to the principles that I describe, we will work with it as we need to, as appropriate.

The purpose of this technocratic unity government is to administer affairs in the West Bank and Gaza for purposes of having election in six months.

No one disputes that Hamas is an unrepentant terrorist organization. But neither Israel nor the U.S. believes that any of the ministers in the unity government are members of Hamas. Hamas is very weak as a result of restrictions imposed by Egypt, so it is in both Israel’s and the PA’s interests to capitalize on this weakness by forcing Hamas out of power in Gaza by elections.

In forming this technocratic government, Hamas agreed to conditions it was never previously willing to accept, such as giving Abbas veto power over all ministers and approving the formation of a government in which it has no ministers, which is why this unity government might succeed.

If the Palestinian Authority collapses, not only would Israel have to take over administration of the West Bank — which Israel does not want to do — but Israel would also lose the security cooperation that has virtually eliminated terrorist attacks from the West Bank into Israel. Perhaps that is why, despite its rhetoric, Israel continues to transfer money to the PA — and so should we.

Congress should work with the Administration to ensure that we have not been misled as to the composition of this unity government, and to monitor this unity government for acts that would render it ineligible for U.S. aid. Suspending aid now could imperil U.S. and Israeli security and administrative interests. It might be more prudent to suspend aid only if and when we have evidence that continued U.S. assistance would violate U.S. law.

The goal is to remove Hamas from power and create a government that can negotiate meaningfully with Israel, but the risk is that Hamas will use this government to expand its influence. A Palestinian government without Hamas that can negotiate on behalf of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza is the ideal partner for peace. We must be careful not to take rash action.

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