The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has expressed criticism of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for taking the unusual step of overriding the House Foreign Relations Committee and releasing $147 million in funds for Mahmoud Abbas Palestinian Authority (PA) that House Foreign Relations Committee Chairwoman, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) had put on hold. Rep. Ros-Lehtinen had put the hold on the funds due to the PA circumventing negotiations and, contrary to U.S, policy, seeking to obtain Palestinian statehood via the United Nations.
Secretary Clinton overrode Rep. Ros-Lehtinens decision to withhold $147 million, even though she had approved the partial release ($88.6 million) of funds for specific humanitarian projects. A State Department official said that the funds constitute critical support to the Palestinian people and those leaders seeking to combat extremism within their society and build a more stable future. Without funding, our programs risk cancellation … Such an occurrence would undermine the progress that has been made in recent years in building Palestinian institutions and improving stability, security, and economic prospects, which benefits Israelis and Palestinians alike. Rep. Ros-Lehtinen said, The U.S. has given $3 billion in aid to the Palestinians in the last five years alone, and what do we have to show for it? … Now the administration is sending even more. Where is the accountability for U.S. taxpayer dollars?” (Sara Sorcher, Clinton Overrules Republican Lawmaker’s Hold on Palestinian Aid. Ros-Lehtinen: Where is the accountability for U.S. taxpayer dollars? National Journal, April 11, 2012).
James Joyner, a strategic analyst and editor-in-chief of the Outside the Beltway blog, who does not support the hold on PA funding, nonetheless has observed, the Executive doesnt have the authority to overrule Congress on spending issues and the State Departments powers exist mostly under delegation from Congress. This is a dangerous precedent, indeed, and I would expect Congress to act to reclaim its power here.
ZOA National Vice-President Steve Goldberg said, We are critical of Secretary Clintons overriding of Rep. Ros-Lehtinen and the House Foreign Relations Committee on PA funding. Withholding funds from the PA is an important act of leverage over the PA. It is one of the few means that allows the U.S. to pressure the PA into peace-making by demonstrating that pro-terror, anti-peace policies – like seeking to obtain statehood without negotiations and concluding peace with Israel – carry serious consequences.
Unfortunately, this mode of pressure has hardly ever been used – and now the attempt to do so has been undermined by Secretary Clinton. This sends a negative message – that U.S. funding for the P.A. is somehow sacrosanct, when, if flowing at all, it should be strictly conditional, and will continue no matter what the PA says or does in terms of orchestrating incitement to hatred and murder, evading negotiations and promoting conflict.