Washington — The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a bill that would cut off the Palestinian Authority from U.S. aid and restrict humanitarian assistance. The House approved the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act, also known as H.R. 4681 on Tuesday, May 23, 2006 by a vote of 361-37.
Initiated by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA) the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006 is a clear indictment of the terrorist group Hamas’ refusal to renounce terrorism and recognize Israel and repudiate its charter which calls for the murder of every Jew. The bill is the farthest U.S. lawmakers have ever gone towards cutting off the Palestinian leadership from U.S. aid and restricting assistance through non-governmental organizations.
“The ZOA commends the extraordinary work by Representatives Ros-Lehtinen and Lantos have done to bring this bill to a successful vote,” said Morton A. Klein, National President of Zionist Organization of America. “We are pleased to see serious efforts toward ending the U.S. funding of a terrorist regime. Palestinian voters knew exactly who they were voting for when they voted and must be held accountable. It must be made clear to the Palestinian Arabs that there are severe consequences for voting for a radical Islamic terrorist party.”
H.R. 4681 included many points lobbied for by the ZOA. It amends the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, calling for the president to certify that several conditions exist before federal money can be appropriated to the Palestinian Authority. These stipulations relate to major institutional changes, suspending all terrorist activities and infrastructure, including taking verifiable steps to supply media and textbooks that promote peaceful co-existence with Israel, ending commemoration of terrorists, ensuring consistent democratic elections, and an independent judiciary, and rendering all financial operations of all Palestinian government institutions transparent.
Importantly, the House measure further bans the PLO in the U.S. and calls for a suspension of U.S. funds to the United Nations until U.S. recommendations regarding Palestinian-related entities are implemented. The Secretary of State is required to review and report on all UN entities related to the Palestinians. Until the U.S. stipulations are met the U.S. will withhold an amount of UN funding equal to UN budget for Palestinian related programs.
The bill also calls for new restrictions on travel visas for all Palestinian Authority officials, and inserts a formal Congressional declaration of the Palestinian territory as a “sanctuary for terrorists.”
The weaker Senate version of the bill, known as S. 2370, was introduced by Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the majority whip, and ranking committeeman Joseph Biden (D-DE). It includes a broader waiver authority on aid to the Palestinians that House sponsors had resisted. It also drops bans on representation by the Palestine Liberation Organization in the United States. The Senate version has yet to pass.
“We know the Senate leadership has been watching the House bill closely,” said Murray Tenenbaum, Director of Government Relations for the ZOA. “This overwhelming House vote is a very positive development,” said Tenenbaum. “It sends a message to the Palestinians, but also sends a message to the Senate and the administration that this is the will of the American public — that Palestinian aid is not an entitlement, and such aid must be held strictly contingent on the ending of terrorism, ending the promotion of terrorism, and unequivocal acceptance of Israel’s right to exisit as a Jewish state.”