News / Middle East

Congressional Panel Reexamines Aid to Palestinians

Cindy Saine

A key committee of the House of Representatives held a hearing on Wednesday to reexamine U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority, if it goes ahead with plans to submit an application to the United Nations for full membership as a state.  Envoys for the United States and the European Union are trying to persuade the Palestinians to drop the U.N. statehood bid, which could come up as early as next week at the U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York.

The Republican chairwoman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, is a vocal opponent of the Palestinian plan.  And she criticized President Barack Obama and his administration for not speaking out sooner to dissuade the Palestinian Authority from seeking statehood recognition at the United Nations.

"We stand at a critical juncture with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which will inevitably have a major impact throughout the region.  Events appear to be headed in an increasingly negative direction, and regrettably, the administration has been slow to take action," she said.

Ros-Lehtinen introduced a bill earlier this month that would cut funding to any United Nations agency that supports the Palestinian bid for statehood.  And at Wednesday's hearing, there was broad agreement among Republicans and Democrats that a unilateral bid for Palestinian statehood would be setback to the Mideast peace process.

The committee's ranking Democrat, Howard Berman, pointed out that the United States has been the biggest supporter of the Palestinian Authority, providing more than $4 billion in aid during the past 15 years.  He called on Palestinians not to put such assistance at risk. "Should the Palestinians pursue their unilateralist course, the hundreds of millions of dollars in annual assistance that we have given them in recent years will likely be terminated, and that could well result in the collapse of the Palestinian Authority.  And it pains me to say that.  U.S. aid has contributed significantly to many positive developments in the West Bank," he said.

President Obama has warned that if the Palestinians try to win statehood recognition from the U.N. Security Council, the United States will veto the resolution.  The United States has long maintained that negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians are the only path toward peace in the Middle East, and achieving separate Israeli and Palestinian states that coexist peacefully.

Elliott Abrams, who served as President George W. Bush's deputy national security adviser for Middle East affairs, warned the committee that the United States should move cautiously on cutting aid to the Palestinians, and that it should distinguish between the Palestinian Authority, which is an administrative body, and the Palestine Liberation Organization, or PLO.  He said a symbolic, non-financial gesture might be the best response to Palestinian statehood recognition.

"I think you ought to move to close the PLO office in Washington.  It is the PLO that is doing this.  It is the PLO whose ambassador [Tuesady], in a speech that I would describe as disgusting, said that in the new state of Palestine there should not be one Jew," he said. "He did not say 'Israeli,' he said 'Jew.'"

Analyst David Makovsky of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy warned that a complete cut-off of U.S. aid might hurt moderate Palestinians and embolden Hamas, which the United States has designated as a terrorist organization. "Congressional aid has produced unprecedented levels of West Bank stability, prosperity, improved governance and previously unimaginable levels of Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation that have benefited Palestinians and Israelis alike.  Any changes to U.S. aid should therefore be carefully calibrated," he said.

Several Democratic and Republican members of the House panel questioned what U.S. taxpayers had received for their support to the Palestinians, and called on the Palestinian leadership to resume negotiations with Israel.

You May Like

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Arkansas, North Carolina have approved similar laws that gay-marriage opponents say help maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More