Cantor: Suspend US aid to Palestinians

Greg Nash

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) is calling on the Obama administration to suspend aid to the new Palestinian unity government forged between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, which the U.S. considers a terrorist organization.

The government was sworn in on Monday in Ramallah by President Mahmoud Abbas, who, in April, struck an accord with Hamas, which has been blamed for derailing peace talks with Israel.

"President Abbas argues that the new government is composed of ministers without political affiliation, but this new government appears dependent upon Hamas and Hamas continues to support terrorism in its quest to destroy the state of Israel,” Cantor said in a statement.

“The burden lies with this new unity government to demonstrate in words and actions that it is truly independent of Hamas, that it rejects terrorism, and that it is committed to a peaceful two-state solution, including recognizing Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state,” he added.

Palestinian officials have said they would recognize Israel’s right to exist and continue Abbas’s pursuit of a two-state solution in the Middle East.

Cantor, though, said recent conflict in the region and reports of corruption within the Palestinian Authority “raise serious doubts both about the willingness of the Palestinian Authority to forge peace with Israel and about its ability to govern in a transparent and responsive manner.”

"The laws of the United States prohibit assistance to terrorist organizations,” Cantor said.

“The administration, in consultation with Congress, should initiate an immediate review of this new government,” he continued. “Until such time that it is determined that assistance to this so-called technocratic government is consistent with our own interests, principles, and laws it is incumbent on the administration to suspend U.S. assistance.”

In a separate statement, the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Nita Lowey (N.Y.), said she was “deeply disappointed” in the new Palestinian government.

“[A]s long as Hamas rejects the Quartet principles and the existence of the state of Israel, United States funding for this unity government is in jeopardy,” she said.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki on Monday, though, said the Obama administration has no plans "at this point" to cut off aid to the Palestinians. 

Department officials will be in close consultation with members of Congress about the new interim government, Psaki said. 

"We continue to believe our assistance to the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian people are important and I’m sure that will be part of the case we make as well," she added. 

Rebecca Shabad contributed.

This story was updated at 1:48 p.m.