Washington — The Zionist Organization of America is pleased to announce that legislation including the most stringent reporting and compliance requirements to date on U.S. aid to the Palestinians passed the House of Representatives Wednesday evening by an overwhelming margin of 351 to 78.
A crucial amendment, sponsored by Congresswoman Shelley Berkley (D-NV) and Congressman Joe Crowley (D-NY), applying very specific controls to Palestinian aid, also passed by a large margin, 330 to 100, and with wide bi-partisan support.
The Zionist Organization of America, working closely with key lawmakers, helped initiate, promote and pass these new restrictions.
“We wanted to achieve two major objectives,” said Murray Tenenbaum, Director of Government Relations for the ZOA. “We wanted to truly link any American dollars that go to the Palestinian Arabs to what they actually do, or fail to do to combat terrorism and the promotion of hatred and murder of Israelis, and we wanted to give Congress the ability to stop the flow of those dollars when the situation clearly calls for it.” Said Tenenbaum, “With this legislation, we achieve both.”
ZOA National President, Morton A. Klein, also commented on the massive support for this bill.
“These two overwhelming votes in the House,” said Klein, “and particularly the vote on the Berkley-Crowley Amendment, reveals just how frustrated Congress and the American people are with the lack of effort by the Palestinian leadership to deal with terrorism, incitement, financial corruption, and the lack of information from our own State Department about what is being done to correct this and what American dollars are really doing. Great praise and credit should go to Representatives Shelley Berkley, Joseph Crowley, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and Tom Lantos for their relentless efforts on behalf of this important legislation.”
The bill in question, known as the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for 2006 and 2007, or H.R. 2601, includes important increases to the reporting requirements of the State Department regarding aid to the Palestinians, the West Bank and Gaza, or the Palestinian Authority. These new requirements, proposed by Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA), allow aid to be disbursed only after the President certifies that certain conditions are being met.
These conditions include:
- the Palestinian Authority committing to and initiating the process of purging from its security services individuals with ties to terrorism; demonstrable progress toward dismantling the terrorist infrastructure, confiscating unauthorized weapons, arresting and bringing terrorists to justice, destroying unauthorized arms factories,
- thwarting and preempting terrorist attacks, and is fully cooperating with Israel’s security services;
- demonstrable progress toward halting all anti-Israel incitement in Palestinian Authority-controlled electronic and print media and in schools, mosques, and other institutions it controls, and is replacing these materials, including textbooks, with materials that promote tolerance, peace, and coexistence with Israel;
- effective steps to ensure democracy, the rule of law, and an independent judiciary, and has adopted other reforms such as ensuring transparent and accountable governance;
- committing to ensuring that all elections within areas it administers to be free, fair, and transparent; and
- verifiable efforts to ensure the financial transparency and accountability of all government ministries and operations.
The President is further required to re-certify these conditions every six months for any U.S. money appropriated to be, in fact obligated. The additional Berkley-Crowley Amendment strengthened this language further by limiting any aid disbursement to 25% of the whole per calendar quarter. Such a restriction would be unique in the distribution of foreign aid, and goes against the standard “lump sum” disbursement of U.S. assistance.
Congresswoman Berkley speaking on the House floor stated the problem plainly.
“Since the signing of the Oslo Accord in 1993, the U.S. government has committed more than $1.8 billion in economic assistance to the Palestinians. We have done this with little or no accountability, few modern financial controls, and no actual knowledge of what our taxpayer money is going for.”
With the addition of the Berkley-Crowley Amendment to the bill, Congress can stop the flow of money if the Palestinian Authority fails to meet certification requirements — meaning not making demonstrable progress toward the goals set out above.
Said Berkley, “Our amendment would force accountability over this money and provide Congress with the ability to end the flow of funding if the certification requirements in the bill are not met.”
Congressman Crowley reiterated the need for real restrictions. “Over the past 10 years, Congress has had little to no accountability over the aid we have given to the Palestinian Authority.” Said Crowley, “I believe we must have full accountability over the aid we give to make sure that the emergence of a democratic Palestinian government can take place.”
H.R. 2601 will now move to the Senate and face another tough battle. “We know we will have to work hard now in the Senate to secure similar legislation,” said Tenenbaum. “But this strong show of support in the House is very encouraging.”