The reconciliation deal reached by Fatah and Hamas this week could prove costly for the Palestinian Authority. Powerful members of Congress are threatening to cut off the $400 million in annual aid America sends the Palestinians if they form a new government that includes Hamas, which the U.S. considers a terrorist organization. "U.S. taxpayer funds should not and must not be used to support those who threaten U.S. security, our interests, and our vital ally, Israel," says Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Is cutting off aid the right thing to do?
As things stand, the U.S. has no choice: "There really isn't much wiggle room here," says Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post. Congress can't legally send a dime to any government that doesn't recognize Israel's right to exist, something Hamas refuses to do. The Fatah-Hamas merger plan doesn't include a word requiring Hamas to renounce violence, so the Palestinian Authority should start tightening its belt.
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This could make negotiations more difficult: The U.S. aid has bolstered the West Bank's economy, says Lehigh University professor Henri Barkey, as quoted at Marketplace. But "the Saudis and the other Gulf Arabs have a lot of money to invest and they can easily supplant the United States financially." Politically, however, this will hurt both the Palestinians, who need the "international cache" U.S. aid provides, and Washington, which would lose leverage to negotiate with the Palestinians.
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The U.S. should not do anything rash: The politicians who are bashing the Palestinian reconciliation are only interested in "delivering for Israel," says MJ Rosenberg at The Huffington Post, "which, of course, is a way of delivering for their campaigns." But demanding that Hamas recognize Israel without seeing how the Fatah-Hamas merger unfolds would be "an act of diplomatic sabotage," derailing further peace talks before they start. "There is only one demand we should make of Hamas, that it cease all acts of violence."
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