It’s classic guerrilla legislative tactics and it has AIPAC written all over it. Nita Lowey is one of AIPAC’s staunchest allies in Congress and is the fifth on the House list (as of 2004) of career recipients of pro-Israel PAC campaign funds. And today, Reuters reports that thanks to her, Condi Rice has yet another headache to deal with as she prepares for her three-way Israeli-Palestinian-U.S. summit on Monday:
A Bush administration request for $86 million in U.S. funds to help train and equip Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s security forces is being blocked by a U.S. lawmaker who has concerns about how the money might be used.
“Early last week, I placed a hold on the $86 million,” Rep. Nita Lowey, a New York Democrat, told Reuters on Tuesday. “It is imperative that we have a fuller understanding of exactly what the funding is for and what the situation is on the ground,” said Lowey, who sits on the House Appropriations Committee, which controls U.S. funding for domestic and foreign projects.
While Lowey said she had acted to hold up the money before last week’s deal between Abbas and Hamas leaders to form a unity government, that agreement “raised additional questions.”
Lowey said she has asked the State Department to provide more information on how the $86 million would be used.
And lest you think this might be a one-off thing for Lowey, she seems to be a serial offender on the issue of blocking Palestinian aid according to Eric Alterman.
So let’s explain how it goes. AIPAC worries that Condi may use too much force against the Israeli position in the talks; that she may, for example, consider ending the U.S. siege on Gaza and the PA. So it sends a shot across Condi’s bow by bottling up the $86 million the Bush Administration has allocated to support Mahmoud Abbas and his political position among the Palestinians. The message is: if you dare to cross AIPAC’s position on any of this we’ll twist your Mideast policy in knots.
It’s all pretty pro forma and SOP for AIPAC. Of course, it is a vapid, bankrupt response to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It’s simply stonewalling for stonewalling’s sake. So tiresome and yet so familiar.
And proof that Lowey’s action is mere grandstanding lies in this closing sentence from the article:
Neither Lowey nor aides specified what information she wants from the State Department to convince her to lift her hold on the $86 million.
Shmuel Rosner provides his usual mis-coverage of the story, which he (or someone at Haaretz) erroneously titles, Congress Blocks $86m in Aid to PA:
The Bush administration’s pledge to transfer $86 million to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas was blocked by Congress. The U.S. administration had publicly pledged the funds, but a number of congressmen are skeptical about the funding.
First regarding the headline, all media sources I’ve seen except this one have noted the aid is intended to buttress Mahmoud Abbas, not the PA, which is controlled by Hamas. Second, Abbas is president of the PA and not chairman (that was Arafat). Third, the Reuters story above clearly says that only Lowey has put a hold on the appropriation. There is no mention of “a number of congressmen [sic].” Also, I hope that Rosner’s editor (does he even have one?) realizes that Lowey is not a “Congressman.” Returning to our point, there may be a number of Congress members who support Lowey, but I’ve nowhere seen any reference to their existence. So unless Rosner can present those names with proof that they exist, Haaretz shouldn’t include such a statement. In addition, to say that a hold placed by a single member of Congress constitiutes being “blocked by Congress” is a wholly inflated statement which doesn’t deserve seeing the light of day in an otherwise stellar newspaper.
Hat tip to Brit Tzedek Newsdigest for the Reuters story.