Tuesday, December 14, 2010

US Congress threatens PA with aid cut

US Congress has stepped up pressure on the Palestinian Authority (PA) to resume talks with Israel, warning against a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state.

"Pursuing a non-negotiated path to statehood is a fool's errand. Palestinians want a state, not a declaration. Their only way to achieve that is through direct negotiations with Israel," Howard Berman, chairman of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, told the Jerusalem Post on Monday. 

"If they try to circumvent negotiations, they'll lose the support of a lot of people like me, and it will jeopardize their foreign aid as well," the California Democrat warned. 

Senior Florida Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen insisted on conditioning US aid on Ramallah's commitment to the recognition of Israel and an end to the firing of homemade projectiles into Israel. She argued that unilateral efforts "undermine the prospects that those obligations might finally be met." 

Berman and Ros-Lehtinen are leading supporters of Israel and known recipients of campaign funds and other perks from powerful Israeli-linked lobby groups in the US, led by American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). 

Most members of the foreign affairs committees of both houses in the US Congress are sponsored by AIPAC and do not shy away from admitting their ties to the lobby group and unconditional support to the Israeli regime. 

Members of the US House of Representatives are also circulating resolutions in opposition to any Palestinian move toward a unilateral declaration of statehood. 

Meanwhile, Ros-Lehtinen has co-sponsored a resolution "reaffirming congressional opposition to the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state," a point expected to be reiterated by a new resolution Berman is set to introduce at the end of the week. 

The escalating pressure against a possible unilateral declaration comes amid mounting fears of growing support for the Palestinian cause, given Israel's obstinate refusal to heed international calls for a settlement freeze, which derailed the latest PA-Israel negotiations earlier in the year. 

On September 2, the US persuaded the Palestinian Authority to join the negotiating table with Israel in Washington. But the talks broke off three weeks later, when Israel's refusal to extend a partial moratorium after its September 26 expiry prompted PA negotiators to walk out. 

Fears in Israel and its traditional guardian, the United States, have surged amid threats by PA officials to demand that the UN recognize a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, a state already recognized by some South American countries, including Brazil and Argentina. 

At the same time, the US has pledged to boost its efforts to assist Palestinian state-building as part of its new policy aimed at jumpstarting Israel-PA talks, asking Congress to approve $200 million in funding for the Palestinian Authority next year. Source

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