In a resolution that passed 406-6, the US House of Representatives on July 7 threatened to cut off funding to the Palestinian Authority if it pursues recognition of statehood outside of negotiations with Israel. The text of the resolution “affirms that Palestinian efforts to circumvent direct negotiations and pursue recognition of statehood prior to agreement with Israel will harm United States-Palestinian relations and will have serious implications for the United States assistance programs for the Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority.” It also calls on the Obama administration to review assistance to the Palestinians, which runs to about $500 million a year, in the light of negotiations with Hamas toward a unity government. The Senate passed a similar non-binding resolution last month.
The Palestinian Authority maintains that absent negotiations, it will bring its case for statehood to the United Nations in September. Palestinian negotiators refuse to return to talks unless Israel freezes settlement construction. Israel, in turn, will not consider talks with the Palestinians unless the PA breaks off its talks with Hamas. Israel also demands the framework of the talks include recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, an end to refugee claims, and a longterm Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) was urging its activists to press Congress to pass the resolution. Among the six voting against was a freshman, Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), who is aligned with the Tea Party and who is of Palestinian descent. The five other members who voted against the resolution were Reps. Ron Paul (R-TX), Walter Jones (R-NC), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Nick Rahall (D-WV) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).
AIPAC commended the passage of the resolution, sponsored by top leaders from both parties—Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), the majority leader, and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), the minorioty whip. “AIPAC appreciates Congress’s support of Israeli efforts to forge a lasting peace with the Palestinians through direct negotiations and without the threat of violence,” the organization in a statement. (JTA, July 8)
Israel moves to shut down “air flotilla”
Dozens of pro-Palestinian activists were meanwhile barred from leaving foreign airports for Israel, where authorities said they will deport 60 others who manage to fly in. Israeli authorities are combing passengers for activists expected to attempt entry into the country as part of the “air flotilla” organized after Greece grounded a sea flotilla that attempted to sail for the Gaza Strip. (EJP, July 8)