A Note of Sanity in the Wake of PA-Hamas Agreement

Secretary of State Kerry’s recent “apartheid” comment about Israel’s future was just one in a long list of setbacks to the peace process of late. It can be argued that steady pressure from American officials, that it is imperative for Israel make more and more concessions, is what emboldened the PA to the point that they have entered into a unity agreement with the terror group Hamas. Hamas refuses to consider any sort of two-state solution that does not include the extermination of all Jews in the Israeli state.

If Kerry’s goal at the outset of his tenure as head of the State Department was to maximize the “daylight” between United States and Israel that, as President Obama reportedly said at the beginning of his administration, was necessary to achieving peace, he couldn’t have done a better job.

Already the PA’s top negotiator is echoing the Secretary of State’s off-the-record comments, telling the Palestinian Ma’an news agency that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is using “every possible tool in order to consolidate [Israel’s] apartheid regime.”

But a group of American politicians are pushing back, hoping to bridge the apparent schism between the U.S. and Israel, and to reiterate quite strongly that the government of the United States of America stands firmly behind Israel.

Two parallel efforts in the House of Representatives and United States Senate, led by Rep. Ron DeSantis and Sen. Rand Paul  respectively, would cut off foreign aid to the PA until it takes what DeSantis calls “the most basic steps toward peace.”

Congressman DeSantis had been ahead of the curve on this effort, introducing his bill, the Palestinian Accountability Act, at the end of March 2013. That legislation stalled after being sent to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, but it has caught a second wind now. Senator Paul, who wields considerable clout within his conference, announced Tuesday that he would introduce the Stand With Israel Act, which would accomplish the same things DeSantis had sought.

Currently, American law bars any government that includes Hamas from receiving foreign aid funded by U.S. taxpayers. But the PA has found a clever workaround for this. Hamas, it says, is not part of the government; rather it is in support of the government. And so members of Hamas can occupy positions in the PA government, but since Hamas is not officially part of it, the PA can still receive U.S. taxpayer dollars.

These two measures seek to rectify that.

Although it does not explicitly single out Hamas, one of the provisions in Paul’s proposal would cut off funding unless the president certifies to Congress that the PA has “purged all individuals with terrorist ties from security services.” That would offset Hamas’ ability to play the active role it seeks in the Palestinian government, and would negate the incentive for working in concert with Mahmoud Abbas. Placing certification in the hands of the Executive Branch, however, would provide the president room to maneuver, so as not to jeopardize whatever minimal cooperation Israel currently has between itself and the Palestinian Authority that might be vital to its citizens’ security.

There are certainly valid reasons to view Senator Paul with skepticism on some matters regarding Israel, but that is no reason to ignore his good work on this legislation. In what has become his trademark, the simple, common-sense way the proposal is crafted would make opposing it very difficult. Can any logical argument be made for continuing to send taxpayer money to aid an entity that refuses to publicly recognize Israel and its right to exist as a Jewish state, honor previous diplomatic agreements, end funding of anti-American and anti-Israeli incitement, renounce terror and remove terrorists from its ranks and pledge not to wage war on Israel?

We think not, and we strongly commend Senator Paul for his work on framing the issue in a manner that makes American support for Israel clear and unambiguous. The presentation of exactly what the PA is refusing to do and this list of minimal requirements goes a long way toward clarifying which party is really to blame for the breakdown of talks, Secretary Kerry’s remarks notwithstanding.