The House of Representatives has overwhelmingly approved a resolution opposing any new U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority unless Hamas revokes its call for the destruction of Israel. The resolution is symbolic, but House members have introduced separate legislation that would provide for strong sanctions against the Palestinian Authority.
The resolution expresses the sense of Congress that no U.S. aid should be provided if any party holding a majority of seats in the Palestinian legislature advocates the destruction of Israel.
In speeches on the floor of the House of Representatives, lawmakers voiced their opposition to any U.S. taxpayer dollars going to the Palestinian Authority until Hamas changes its stated goals and renounces violence.
"When Hamas looks at America, at the [Bush] administration, at the [U.S.] Congress, they must see nothing but fierce, unrelenting, and implacable rejection," said Congressman Gary Ackerman, a New York Democrat. "There can be no political absolution for this pack of killers. And the very idea of giving our taxpayers money to these bloody-handed fanatics, people who have slaughtered our own citizens, is offensive."
Although supporting the resolution, House International Relations Committee Chairman Henry Hyde adopted a slightly different approach. He describes the Hamas legislative election victory as an expression of Palestinian frustration with corruption in the Fatah party. He cautions against temptations to abandon what he calls ways of remaining constructively engaged with the Palestinian people and the (Palestinian) Authority.
"Tying the hands of the [Bush] administration is not in the interests of the U.S. national security," said Hyde. "We need to react with some care. Hurting the Palestinian people will reward terrorist regimes like Syria and Iran which seek to exploit the suffering of the Palestinians for their own selfish reasons."
In a written statement, the new House Republican leader, John Boehner, said approval of the symbolic resolution sends a message to Hamas that the United States will not support terrorist organizations.
Although the House-passed resolution was symbolic in nature, a bipartisan group of House lawmakers recently introduced separate legislation proposing a range of tough sanctions against the Palestinian Authority.
Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the key sponsor, says Hamas continues to endorse the worst sort of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish propaganda.
"Hamas' victory in the parliamentary election poses a direct threat to U.S. strategies for regional stability," she said. "We must not and cannot allow taxpayer funds to directly or indirectly assist or support in any way Hamas or any other Palestinian terrorist groups that glorify blood, bloodshed, and terror and uses violence as a political tool."
Ros-Lehtinen has been negotiating with the White House on the final form this legislation would take.
At present, it proposes cutting off assistance to the Palestinian Authority, banning U.S. officials from diplomatic contacts with Hamas members and denying visas to officials or members of the Authority.