A bipartisan group of 88 senators led by Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) sent a letter to President Barack Obama last week making it clear that they have deep concerns about the newly formed Palestinian unity government.
That new government supported by Hamas, which the United States considers a terrorist group, presents “a serious setback” to achieving peace, the senators stated.
“By its actions and inaction, Hamas has demonstrated it is not a partner for peace,” they wrote.
According to law and in the appropriations budget, the United States is prohibited from providing “foreign assistance to Hamas or any power-sharing government of which Hamas is a member or over which Hamas has undue influence,” the letter stated.
The Obama Administration has said it intends to work with the unity government and will continue to disburse aid, while taking a wait-and-see approach. This letter makes it clear that the senators “are gravely concerned that the formation of this government and President Abbas’ renewed effort to upgrade the status of the Palestinians within international organizations will jeopardize direct negotiations with Israel to achieve a two-state solution.”
“Neither one of these moves is helpful to the peace process,” Cardin said, referring to the Palestinian government seeking recognition outside direct peace negotiations and forming a government with Hamas.
As to whether funding to the Palestinians must legally stop under U.S. law, Cardin replied that there are ways in which certain conditions could be met. He pointed out that Hamas must not have “undue influence” over the new government. Another way would be if the new government recognizes Israel, Cardin said. “There are ways in which there could be accommodations,” he told Washington Jewish Week.
When asked what would happen if the Palestinians don’t abide by the Quartet principles, which were set by the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nation to guide the Middle East peace process, but the Obama Administration continues to send money, Cardin replied, “We expect the Obama administration to abide with the law, and the law is pretty clear.”
Cardin said the letter sends a strong message to the Palestinians, letting them know that their recent actions are “not helpful” in their goal to have their own state.
“To get 88 members to agree, particularly in this political environment,” makes a strong statement, Cardin said.
The letter notes, “Hamas has openly called for Israel’s destruction, and last month, Hamas leaders again repeated their refusal to meet recognized international demands: recognition of Israel, renunciation of terror and acceptance of previous Israel-PLO agreements.”
Recent developments “have undermined Congressional support for U.S. assistance to the Palestinians. Any assistance should only be provided when we have confidence that this new government is in full compliance with the restrictions contained in current law.”