U.S. Senators Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Thursday called on Secretary of State John Kerry to publicly state that there will be an immediate cut-off of relevant U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority (PA), should its new unity government fail to comply with the detailed requirements set forth by the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006.
In a letter to Kerry, Kirk and Rubio highlighted the counter-productive steps being taken by the PA after the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Fatah announced plans to pursue a unity government with Hamas, which they noted is a terrorist organization that has a stated goal of wiping Israel from the map.
“As you know, the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006 sets detailed requirements for the continuation of U.S. assistance should Hamas be brought into the Palestinian Authority government. The law is very clear,” they wrote in the letter, a copy of which was posted to Kirk’s website.
“If Hamas comes to have a role in governance, there must be public acknowledgment of the Jewish state of Israel’s right to exist as well as acceptance of all previous agreements the Palestinians have made with Israel, the United States, and the international community,” the senators wrote.
“The law also requires that demonstrable progress be made toward dismantling of Hamas’ terrorist infrastructure and purging of individuals with ties to terrorism. Moreover, Hamas would need to halt its anti-American and anti-Israel incitement. The bar is high because the stakes are high and we must make sure to stand firmly by what we have said. Failing to do so will diminish the credibility of the United States,” added Kirk and Rubio.
“Unfortunately, we have already seen reports that influential voices within Hamas say a unity deal would not compel Hamas to recognize Israel’s right to exist,” they added. “It seems clear, therefore, that the current plans for the Palestinian Authority continue to disregard the assurances needed to support Israel’s security and move the Palestinian people further away from the day when they can live in peace.”
“Under the unity deal as we understand it, no effort whatsoever will be made to disarm Hamas or even request that it renounce terrorism before joining the PA. Having an armed terrorist group, which is still committed to violence against Israel, as part of the PA government should make that government ineligible for American aid,” they continued.
“We urge you to state publicly that there will be an immediate cut-off of relevant U.S. assistance unless there is full compliance with the letter and spirit of all provisions in the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act.”
Last week, Hamas and Fatah announced a unity pact after years of rivalry which started when Hamas took over Gaza in a bloody coup.
As part of the deal, PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas will issue a "presidential decree" announcing the dates for elections, which PA officials said would likely take place within the next six months.
The unity government is supposed to be made up of independent figures, but a senior Hamas figure said this week that the group’s leadership decided to submit a candidate for the presidency.
A senior U.S. administration official said last week that the United States would have to reconsider its assistance to PA if Fatah and Hamas form a government together.
Abbas said this week that the new government will "obey my policy," and would "recognize Israel and reject violence and terrorism, and recognize international commitments.”
Hamas, however, had its own interpretation of the unity agreement and its senior leader, Mahmoud Al-Zahar, accused Abbas of lying. He noted that Hamas will never recognize Israel's right to exist.
In September of 2011, a $192 million aid package was frozen by Congress after the PA submitted a failed unilateral bid for United Nations membership.
Members of Congress later released $40 million in economic and humanitarian funding for the PA, saying it is “vital to establishing and strengthening the foundations necessary for a future Palestinian state.”
In April of 2012, President Barack Obama bypassed a Congress block and signed a waiver declaring that aid to the Palestinian Authority is “important to the security interests of the United States.”
Last year, it was revealed that Obama had quietly unblocked almost $500 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority which had been frozen by Congress for months.