WASHINGTON—J Street welcomes the inclusion of language providing for continued US assistance to the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the FY2012 appropriations package introduced yesterday in the House.
“Given how US assistance to the PA has always flowed through a labyrinth of conditions and waivers, this is a promising outcome for those seeking to address the complex security challenges facing Israel and who are willing to take meaningful actions to strengthen our ally,” said Dylan Williams, J Street’s Director of Government Affairs.
The appropriations bill allows aid benefitting the PA to continue so long as the Palestinians do not obtain full membership or the same standing as member states in additional United Nations entities. If such membership were to be obtained, the Secretary of State would have the option of continuing assistance through the exercise of a waiver.
These provisions are included in H.R.3671, which reflects language agreed by appropriations conferees from both parties. Democratic conferees have yet to sign the conference report due to unrelated issues.
“It is gratifying to see a bipartisan consensus emerge in support of continuing US assistance to the PA at this critical moment, as well as increased recognition of its vital role in protecting Israel and the United States’ essential interests in a stable Palestinian government,” added Williams.
The continued appropriations of US aid to the PA follows the November 8 release of a letter authored by Representatives David Price (D-NC) and Peter Welch (D-VT) urging the Chair and Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee for State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs to support continued US-Palestinian assistance.
J Street led the charge on Capitol Hill to mobilize support for the letter, whose 44 signers included the chairs of the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and the Congressional Progressive Caucus, as well as seven members of the House Committee on Appropriations.
Williams added, “The conference language reflects a growing understanding that Israelis and Palestinians alike benefit from both security and humanitarian American assistance to the Palestinian Authority. It is in their vital interests that US aid continues. ”
Numerous Israeli and American security experts have drawn a direct link between continued Palestinian security assistance and Israel’s own security, including the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, which credits Israeli cooperation with US-trained PA security forces with making 2010 the most terror-free year in a decade.
In an interview with The New York Times in October, Israeli Brig. Gen. Nitzan Alon, commander of the Israel Defense Forces’ Judea and Samaria Division, said: “Stability in the region includes the ability of the Palestinian Authority to pay its salaries… Reducing the Palestinians’ ability to pay decreases security. American aid is relevant to this issue.” The NYT reported that Gen. Alon’s comments “reflect[ed] a consensus among Israeli defense officials.”
The appropriations bill released yesterday does not specify a dollar amount of aid to be appropriated in support of programs assisting Palestinians. J Street supports funding such programs at the substantial levels of recent years.