Florida’s Senators Urge State Department Not to Send Aid to Palestinian Authority, Hamas

Last week, Florida’s two U.S. senators–Republicans Marco Rubio and Rick Scott--joined other Republicans in sending a letter to U.S. Sec. of State Antony Blinken, calling on the administration not to send federal dollars to the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas., led the letter and rounded up more than 15 fellow Senate Republicans warning against “President Biden’s plan to send a reported $75 million in general economic support payments from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. State Department into territories controlled by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Iran-backed terrorist group Hamas.”

“We write with concern regarding plans by the Biden-Harris administration to pour hundreds of millions of American taxpayer dollars into territories controlled by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Iran-backed terrorist group Hamas. We call on you to halt these expenditures until the State Department accounts for statutory restrictions and remedies known deficiencies in the distribution of such assistance, which have for years promoted and facilitated terrorism against Americans and Israelis,” the senators wrote.

“It is unacceptable that the Biden-Harris administration would seek to dampen public debate over these vast sums of general assistance. Since 1993, the U.S. government provided more than $6.3 billion to the Palestinians with the aims of, first, advancing the Palestinians’ capacity to build a state and, second, insulating and distancing Palestinian governance from terrorism. Measured by the degree to which they have achieved those aims, U.S. programs have not just failed but have been counterproductive, with the money facilitating terrorist incitement and making its way to terrorists. In just the last few weeks, U.S. government documents and announcements by the Palestinians have made clear those failings were systematic and structural,” the senators added.

“If a Palestinian state was established today it would be a failed state, lacking political institutions, economic viability, a monopoly on the use of force by internal groups, and a non-terrorist government capable of exerting sovereignty over all claimed territories. PA President Mahmoud Abbas was elected to a four-year term in 2005 but no subsequent presidential election has taken place, the Palestinian economy suffers from endemic corruption and requires outside intervention to function, Palestinian officials routinely blame violence and rocket attacks against Israelis on groups ostensibly beyond their control, and control over Palestinian areas is fractured between Fatah and Hamas,” the senators continued. “Meanwhile the PA has funneled hundreds of millions of dollars every year to reward Palestinian terrorists and their families, with increased rewards in proportion to increased casualties. Among the beneficiaries of these so-called ‘pay-for-slay’ programs was the family of Bashar Masalha, who in 2016 stabbed 11 people near Tel Aviv and murdered 28-year old U.S. Army veteran Taylor Force.”

At the start of the month, Scott pointed to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report “showing that the U.S. Agency for International Development has failed to ensure that taxpayer dollars sent to Gaza and the West Bank have been compliant with U.S. anti-terrorism laws.”

“The Trump administration rightly ended aid to Palestinian leaders because of the risks it posed to the peace and security of Israel and the United States. It is unconscionable that President Biden would send American tax dollars to corrupt Palestinian leaders who openly support terrorism and wage war against our great ally Israel. Why on earth does President Biden think this is a good use of taxpayer funds? President Biden should stand up for Israel, protect taxpayer dollars and immediately reverse this decision,” Scott said.

Over in the U.S. House, U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., the chairman of the U.S. House Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, supported the administration on the matter.

“I welcome the announcement of the restoration of humanitarian and development assistance to the Palestinian people,” Deutch noted on Thursday. “The U.S. has long provided assistance that contributes to the health, well-being and prosperity of Palestinians, and to the overall stability of the region.

“Our bilateral assistance is provided in accordance with all applicable U.S. laws, like the Taylor Force Act, as the Biden administration has noted,” Deutch continued. “Despite my serious concerns about transparency and accountability at UNRWA, withholding assistance that provides healthcare and education to children during a global pandemic risks further deteriorating an already dire humanitarian crisis in Gaza made worse by Hamas.

“The administration. is committed to seeking reform of UNRWA and I’ll insist that they follow through on that commitment,” Deutch added. “The $10 million for conflict mitigation supports peacebuilding by establishing people to people relationships that form the foundation of any future peace.

“There has been longstanding bipartisan support for these programs, as evidenced by the passage of the Nita M. Lowey Middle East Partnership for Peace Act last year,” Deutch concluded.

 

Reach Kevin Derby at kevin.derby@floridadaily.com.

 

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