Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Congress at Odds With Israel, Bush Over Palestine Aid.

Arab News Says:

Since the US Congress passed a resolution to block any support to the Palestinians, non-governmental organizations in the US launched a campaign to prevent the cut in US humanitarian aid to the Palestinians. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the Florida Republican who chairs the House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on the Middle East is the author of the bill.

Leaders of the NGO are asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, before she left to the Middle East, to maintain aid to organizations working in the territories for the benefit of the Palestinian people.

Ros-Lehtinen’s bill does not distinguish between the Palestinian Authority president and the Palestinian Authority Cabinet, in other words, between Abbas and members of Hamas. Nor does it include a waiver clause that would allow the president to bypass these restrictions in cases he sees as relating to the national interest.

President George W. Bush has used existing waivers in the current law to funnel financial aid directly to the Mahmoud Abbas-led PA.

The bill has gathered wide support in the House and is endorsed by Washington’s pro-Israeli lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. One source told Arab News: “Off the record? It was written by AIPAC.”

If these demands are not met, the bill calls for the Palestinian Authority to be slapped with sanctions, including restrictions on American exports, a ban on American visas for anyone affiliated with the P.A., and restrictions on the movement of officials representing the P.A. or the PLO in America.

Peter Gubser, President of the American Near East Refugee Aid agency, ANERA, an aid organization that helps people in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Lebanon and Jordan, said: “The US should remain fully engaged with the Palestinian people. It is in our national interest to do so as we seek a solution to the Palestine-Israel conflict. And, as the welfare of the Palestinian people continues to decline, we have a powerful humanitarian reason to maintain America’s substantial assistance program in the West Bank and Gaza.”

The United Nations last year issued a report stating that Palestinians living in the occupied territories were facing a humanitarian catastrophe because of lack of food and the inability of the UN to travel freely within the territories and deliver food to families.

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