Nightmare for Middle East peace process

The nightmare scenario of a Hamas-Fatah unity government is finally upon us.

This means Hamas, a terrorist organization with American blood on its hands, will soon become a member of the Palestinian Authority (PA)—an internationally supported, U.S. taxpayer-funded organization.

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Given this new reality, and the fact that current U.S. law strictly prohibits funding to any government with undue influence from Hamas, Congress must reassert its constitutional authority and suspend foreign aid to the PA.

And in return for any assistance in the future, the U.S. must make clear, unequivocal demands.

The PA must immediately dissolve the unity government with Hamas, recognize Israel’s right to exist, promise to abide by all previous agreements, renounce all forms of terrorism, cease paying salaries to convicted terrorists, end its statehood process at the United Nations, immediately hold free and fair elections, establish protections for religious expression at all holy sites and places of worship, and abide by all applicable U.S. laws on foreign assistance.

Leading up to unification, policy experts and politicians argued that suspending funds to the new government would create a vacuum to be filled by Turkey, Iran, and Russia. This would only further alienate the U.S. and Israel from the international community, their argument went.

But Hamas’ words and actions demonstrate that this view is shockingly naive. 

As of the completion of the unification ceremony, Hamas—an organization that has launched thousands of rockets at civilians in Israel—had never renounced terrorism, nor had they recognized Israel. Regardless of PA President and Fatah Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ assurances to the contrary, this new unity government will embed Hamas’ culture of violence even deeper within the government, devastating the peace process more than ever before.

While PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah claims to be establishing a “technocratic” unity government, it’s hard to overlook the fact that Hamas has already demanded that thousands of its militarized members be shifted onto the PA’s payroll, funded in part by American tax dollars.

Before unity, concrete results from the U.S and Fatah’s efforts to combat the influence of Hamas, combat corruption, and address the humanitarian needs of the Palestinians proved elusive.

For example, funding for the non-lethal security agreements must be immediately halted, and any potential future agreement cannot include programs such as the INL-funded PA Security Sector Reform Program (SSRP). This program’s sole purpose is to counter terrorist attacks from groups like Hamas, and if continued under unification, could end up directly benefiting Hamas.

In order to enhance democracy and build a “New Generation in the Middle East,” the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) also administered Economic Support Funds (ESF). But without the guarantee of fair and open elections, and with Hamas at the table of a unity government, this aim is impossible.

And despite U.S. contributions, including to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the Palestinian refugee problem exists still today. PA President Abbas is extremely wealthy, yet millions of people perpetually live in slums and enormous amounts of aid money remain missing.

Aside from the corruption that plagues Palestinian institutional society, another troubling aspect of the PA budget is the Law of the Prisoner mandate. Already, PM Hamdallah’s first act in creating a unity government was to agree to head up a new Ministry of Prisoners which will continue to pay monthly salaries to convicted terrorists in prison.

Reports indicate that approximately 16 percent of the PA budget, including U.S. foreign aid money, pays terrorists convicted of murdering civilians, including Americans. The PA doesn’t deny it—they boast of the payments. This reprehensible program must end, and not one penny of U.S. aid can fund it.

Combining these factors with the creation of a Hamas-Fatah unity government, it is clear that America’s multi-billion-dollar policy towards the PA has failed.

A peaceful resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict takes two willing partners, and the PA has shown its true colors by forming a unity government with Hamas.

If America wants to remain on the side of justice and peace, then we cannot continue to assist our enemies at the expense of our allies.

Bachmann has represented Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District since 2007. She sits on the Financial Services Committee and on the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Franks has represented southern Arizona’s congressional districts since 2003. He sits on the  Armed Services and the Judiciary committees.