In another shameful acts of know-nothingness, Congress is moving to cut aid to Palestinians despite support for the aid by both the Netanyahu government and Obama Administration. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) placed a hold on the assistance, which funds security training; humanitarian aid and some of the PA budget.
The US has been training Palestinian security forces since the Oslo agreement. However, it was in 2004, under President George W. Bush’s ‘road-map’ that Secretary of State Rice set up the Unite States Security Coordinator (USSC) office to train thousands of Palestinian security forces and professionalized the PA system. Funding was temporarily lifted when Hamas won elections in 2006. By 2007, President Abbas and the PA separated from Hamas and security assistance was funneled through the PA. Lt. General Keith Dayton took over training and the success if joint US-PA program has been praised by the IDF, Palestinians and international observers. Israel handed over some areas previously policed by the IDF to Palestinian security and plans to turn over more. The Israeli government believes it in Israel’s interests to have a competent, professional and non-politicized West Bank Palestinian security force.
Hard-line Republicans and some Democrats have nonetheless interpreted Netanyahu’s hard-line on negotiations and settlements, as well as opposition from Israel and the US to the Palestine UN statehood bid, as a green light to disassemble progress made by the Palestinians under President Abbas and PM Fayyad since 2004.
There is no other way to interpret Congressional attempts to cut off aid. The efforts of Abbas and Fayyad led the IMF to ‘approve’ Palestine for possible statehood. It is those efforts which have united most nations of world to support Palestinian statehood and their bid in the UN.
Efforts by Congress to cut aid for building PA institutions, particularly the security forces, that was initiated under George Bush’s ‘road map’ (2004) once again show how some are trying to make support for Israel into a partisan issue. They violate twenty years of bi-partisan American policy calling for a two-state solution to the conflict. US Secretary of Defense Panetta met with Israeli Defense Minister Barak and PM Netanyahu this week after which he re-iterated, on behalf of all three, that cutting Palestinians funds at this point would endanger Israel.
What does this mean for US Foreign Policy
At this dangerous time in the Middle East, the American government should be speaking with one voice, the President’s. The power to conduct foreign policy lies with the executive branch. By using its funding power, however, the House has once again embraced an idea on its own that contradicts the Administration’s foreign policy and is detrimental to the long-term viability of Israel as well as US interests in the Greater Middle East.
It is these type of GOP attemps to by-pass bi-partisan commitments made in the name of the US in the past, and single-shot attacks on Presidential authority, that weakens America’s standing within the Middle East and across the globe. US policy is increasingly seen by major global players as inconsistent and subject to whims of US politics and their parochial interests.
This insanity has to end!