When Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas tried to end run the PA’s treaty obligations to negotiate its statehood with Israel and instead secure recognition from the United Nations, Congress reacted by forbidding the transfer of State Department foreign aid funds to the PA. Several days ago, however, President Obama invoked a waiver provision in the law and authorized the funding to be resumed. And therein lies an important tale.
To be sure, the funding restriction is subject to a presidential waiver that says
[t]he prohibition…shall not apply if the President certifies in writing to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the President pro tempore of the Senate, and the Committees on Appropriations that waiving such prohibition is important to the national security interests of the United States….
Whenever the waiver authority…is exercised, the President shall submit a report to the Committees on Appropriations detailing the justification for the waiver, the purposes for which the funds will be spent, and the accounting procedures in place to ensure that the funds are properly disbursed: Provided, That the report shall also detail the steps the Palestinian Authority has taken to arrest terrorists, confiscate weapons and dismantle the terrorist infrastructure.
Although the administration has yet to release the required reports, White House spokesman Tommy Vietor told reporters that the president’s waiver decision was made in order to ensure “the continued viability of the moderate PA government.” He went on to say that “the PA had fulfilled all its major obligations, such as recognizing Israel’s right to exist, renouncing violence and accepting the roadmap for peace.”
One wonders how this can be reconciled with the PA’s attempt at UN recognition, its support for Palestinian “resistance” against Israel, and its refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Moreover, the PA has signed onto a unity government with Hamas, which controls Gaza, and that raises an issue most commentators have missed. Another section of the funding law provides as follows:
None of the funds appropriated…may be obligated for salaries of personnel of the Palestinian Authority located in Gaza or may be obligated or expended for assistance to Hamas or any entity effectively controlled by Hamas, any power-sharing government of which Hamas is a member, or that results from an agreement with Hamas and over which Hamas exercises undue influence.
This section does not contain a presidential waiver as such, but does provide that the limitations on funding a power-sharing government won’t apply if the president certifies “that such government including all of its ministers” accept the so-called “620 K principles” – central to which is recognition of “the Jewish state of Israel’s right to exist” and acceptance of previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.
It seems clear that the Fatah-controlled PA does not meet these requirements. It is incontrovertible that Hamas doesn’t.
President Obama and his administration know what we know. The decision to resume funding of the PA based on a palpably fictional scenario is only the latest evidence of the contempt this administration has for the American political system.