Paul bill would halt US aid to Palestinians

 

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said he would release a bill later this week that would make future U.S. aid to the Palestinian government conditional upon leaders agreeing to a ceasefire with Israel and recognizing Israel's right to exist.

"I will introduce a measure when Congress returns this week to make all future aid to the Palestinian government conditional upon this statement, with a cutoff date of five weeks from now if, upon its formation, the new government does not take this vital step toward peace," Paul said in a statement on his website Monday.

The move comes after the Palestinians' leading political party, Fatah, signed a unity agreement last week with a rival faction, Hamas, which the U.S. and Israel both recognize as a terrorist group.

"The recent announcement of a Fatah-Hamas unity agreement brings both danger and opportunity to the peace process, and the next five weeks may prove critical," Paul said. "Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with an entity that does not believe it should exist and that has used terrorist tactics to seek its end."

Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken said Sunday on CNN that the Obama administration is prepared to suspend U.S. aid to the Palestinians, which amounts to $400 million annually.

Paul said the new unity government has "a chance to put itself on the record as clearly believing in the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state, as Israel recognizes the right of a Palestinian state to exist. It should also declare an immediate and lasting ceasefire to enable negotiations."

--Rebecca Shabad contributed to this article, which was updated at 3:21 p.m.