The Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) published a revealing article heralding AIPAC’s upcoming national conference. This is THE event every year when 6,000 of AIPAC’s top Jewish leaders come to DC to hobnob with the political elite, which seemingly delights in paying obeisance at AIPAC’s feet. By the way, I note that this year Dick Cheney will be the “Special Guest” at the Closing Session. JTA did everyone a favor by laying out AIPAC’s political agenda for both the meeting and the remainder of the congressional session.
Not content with the current Bush Administration policy labeling Hamas a terror group and refusing to meet or do business with it, AIPAC has given marching orders to its congressional minions, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Tom Lantos, who will file the most punitive and draconian anti-PA legislation ever seen in this country:
A central focus of this year’s policy conference will be legislation that includes the toughest conditions to date for American assistance to the Palestinian Authority, in the wake of Hamas’ landslide victory in Palestinian legislative elections last month.
“The Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act (H.R. 4681) will ban direct aid and severely limit indirect assistance to the P.A. until the president certifies that the P.A. is not controlled by a terrorist group and until Hamas agrees to fight terrorism and recognize Israel’s right to exist,” AIPAC spokesman Josh Block said this week in a statement. “Similar legislation is currently being worked on in the Senate.”
Oh, and lest you have any doubts where AIPAC stands on Iran (America’s number 1 world threat), give a gander to who’s speaking on the subject and the title of his talk:
Iran will still play a major role at the conference. The opening plenary, featuring former nuclear inspector David Kay and John Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is on “How the International Community Can Stop Iran.”
That’s right, Bully Boy Bolton, will tell his AIPAC acolytes how to humiliate and destroy the Iranian government in much the same way as the group intends to obliterate Hamas and the PA. Not much room for subtlety or nuance there, I’m afraid.
Here’s how JTA describes the provisions of the Lantos-Ros Lehtinen bill:
The Palestinian Authority would have to prove it is not employing a single member of Hamas or any other group on U.S. terrorism lists; dismantle all terrorist groups; halt all anti-Israel incitement in any sector it controls and replace it with materials promoting coexistence; and ensure democracy and financial transparency.
Those certifications go beyond the reporting requirements in place under current U.S. legislation. For instance, the Palestinian Authority would have to prove that it is a transparent democracy before the first dollar arrived, instead of merely showing progress. P.A. officials would have to show that incitement had been crushed and replaced by coexistence, instead of simply pulling occasional inciting school texts and broadcasts.
The provisions are also much tougher because they extend to indirect assistance, cutting off non-governmental organizations. The only exception is for humanitarian assistance. It also reduces U.S. payments to the United Nations commensurate with the percentage of the U.N. budget that goes to the Palestinian Authority.
The legislation also tightens President Bush’s options for circumvention. It omits any national security waivers related to aid, and requires a 15-day waiting period before humanitarian aid goes forward.
Don’t you just love those restrictions: the PA has to replace anti-Israel incitement with “materials promoting coexistence.” I wonder whether Israel will face the same rules regarding its approach to the PA. Will its government have to replace anti-Hamas incitement with “materials promoting coexistence” with the PA? This is rich–that’s all I’ve got to say. Not to mention the height of hypocrisy.
Also, the PA would have to “prove that it is a transparent democracy.” What precisely does that mean and who’s the judge? Why don’t they just appoint AIPAC’s president to the job? Besides, I thought the recent Palestinian elections indicated pretty clearly that Palestine was a “transparent democracy.” I haven’t heard any Israeli pols complain about the nature of the election.
Finally, neither AIPAC nor its congressional stooges apparently trust the president or Condi Rice to run U.S. policy toward the PA as they’re tying his hands with rope by eliminating previous provisions for presidential national security waivers which allow some U.S. leeway in dealing with the PA.
Basically, AIPAC wants the PA and Hamas dead. It goes along nicely with former Sharon–and now Olmert–aide, Dov Weisglass, who advises Israel to treat Hamas and the Palestinians as a dietitian would treat a patient needing to go on a diet but without starving him to death. In fact, I’d say AIPAC would like to do away with the diet and proceed right to the starvation.
Thank God there are a few members of Congress not wrapped around AIPAC’s thumb. Henry Hyde is one:
Hyde suggested he would use his powers as committee chairman to slow down the…bill.
“Tying the hands of this administration is not in the interests of national security,” he said. “Hurting the Palestinian people will reward terrorist regimes like Syria and Iran, which seek to exploit the suffering of the Palestinians for their own selfish reasons.”
In any case, Hyde said, Ros-Lehtinen’s bill would not be considered “in advance of the formation of the new Palestinian Cabinet, which is likely to occur in the coming weeks.”
And there is also at least one congressional aide who understands the negative implications of this bill:
“The administration has a whole range of problems with the Ros-Lehtinen bill, ranging from all stick, no carrot to it being a blanket lifetime ban of aid even if reforms are enacted,” said one senior congressional staffer who asked to speak anonymously because the legislation has yet to come to the floor.
And just in case we don’t “get” the broader implications of such punitive actions against the PA and Hamas, the Christian Science Monitor publishes Arab nations say they will offset funds withheld by Israel.
Of course it would be foolish to believe that AIPAC really believes that Hamas can ever moderate its positions enough to become a trustworthy partner for Israel. But there still may be a few Americans who didn’t get the memo yet who believe that this outcome is a distinct possibility (though certainly not a guaranteed outcome). But the anti-Palestinian bill proposed would virtually guarantee that Hamas will never change. How could it? It believes in self-preservation. And if AIPAC wishes to kill Hamas does it not have a right to turn elsewhere in the world, even the Arab world, to find sustenance? The CSM article notes which governments and groups plan to step forward with aid: Iran, Malaysia, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Arab League, the Organization of the Islamic Conference. The list reads like a who’s who of nations from which we’d like to wean Hamas. No chance of that happening with AIPAC in the driver’s seat of U.S. Mideast policy.
In fact, AIPAC would be delighted at the news of who’s stepping in to take the place of Israel’s withheld tax funds, since it doesn’t want Hamas to moderate. With one-third of Palestinian budget revenue locked in Israeli government hands, Iran and that bunch would have to start looking pretty good. And the proposed bill would virtually guarantee such an outcome. Self-fulfilling prophecy, anyone?
I’m delighted to report that the Swedish government equivalent of the U.S. Agency for International Development (AID) is guaranteeing the PA $4.6-million:
“According to the fourth Geneva convention, the occupying power has a particular responsibility to support and ensure the human dignity of the occupied,” [Peter Lundberg of the group’s humanitarian unit] said.
“Since Israel is not living up to its responsibility under international law, large parts of the Palestinian population are now completely dependent on international humanitarian aid,” Lundberg added.
I hope that some nations of the EU will also step forward and follow Sweden’s lead here. Neither AIPAC nor Israel should have the ability to seal a death sentence for Hamas or the PA. There is room for an independent policy toward the Palestinians. I only hope that Javier Solana, Kofi Annan and others can play such a role.
You’re right – this is depressing – mostly because they’ll get away with it. Nobody will notice or care and then when the next round of innocent people are killed by suicide bombers they’ll conveniently tie the funding to Iran and voila, neo-con dreamland.
Machiavelli would be so proud.