WASHINGTON – J Street welcomed the release today of a letter signed by 44 members of Congress urging the Chair and Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee for State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs to support continued US-Palestinian assistance, as a matter that is in the “essential security interest of both Israel and the United States, independent of current policy disagreements.” The letter, authored by Representatives David Price (D-NC) and Peter Welch (D-VT), comes in response to mounting efforts in congress to punitively cut FY2012 US aid to the Palestinian Authority in retaliation for the Palestinian bid for UN membership in September. Earlier this week, it was announced that the remaining Congressional hold on US security assistance to the Palestinian Authority (PA) had been lifted. “The signers of this letter have answered the call of top Israeli military and security officials to continue US assistance to the PA,” said Dylan Williams, J Street’s director of government affairs. “The letter is a reassuring sign that many in Congress will act strategically to protect Israel’s and the United States’ essential interests in a stable Palestinian government.” In their letter, the Representatives write: “We believe that a suspension or termination of assistance would be a serious mistake that would put near-term diplomatic disputes ahead of our long-term interests in the region, as well as the interests of our ally Israel.” J Street has led the charge on Capitol Hill to mobilize support for the letter. Signers include 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. The letter cites numerous Israeli and American security experts who draw 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 last month, 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.” “While it focuses on 2012 appropriations, the release of this letter coincides with the withdrawal of the final Congressional hold on US security assistance to the PA, demonstrating an encouraging trend towards sound policies that benefit our ally,” said Williams. Click here to view a copy of the Price-Welch Letter and a full list of signers.