Casey, Menendez and Colleagues Call for Evaluation of U.S. Relations with Fatah-Hamas Government, Possible Suspension of Aid to Palestinian Authority

WASHINGTON, DC— U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) today sent a letter to President Obama asking him to evaluate the U.S. relationship with the Palestinian Authority and consider taking stronger measures in condemnation of the recently formed Fatah-Hamas unity government. In the letter signed by 27 Senators, the Senators urged the Administration to stand by its refusal to work with any Palestinian government that includes Hamas and consider cutting aid should the U.S. designated terrorist group remain in the government.  Preconditions in U.S. law prevent aid from being provided to a Palestinian government that includes Hamas, unless the government and all its members have publically committed to the Quartet principles.

“It is imperative for you to make clear to President Abbas that Palestinian Authority participation in a unity government with an unreformed Hamas will jeopardize its relationship with the United States, including its receipt of U.S. aid.  As you are aware, U.S. law prohibits aid from being provided to a Palestinian government that includes Hamas, unless the government and all its members have publically committed to the Quartet principles.  We urge you to conduct a review of the current situation and suspend aid should Hamas refuse to comply with Quartet conditions,” wrote the Senators.

The full text of the letter is below.

Dear Mr.  President:

The decision of Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas to form a unity government with Hamas – a designated terrorist group – threatens to derail the Middle East peace effort for the foreseeable future and to undermine the Palestinian Authority’s relations with the United States.
 
Hamas rejects peaceful efforts to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and continues to call for the destruction of the State of Israel. Soon after this agreement was signed, senior Hamas official Mahmoud Zahar declared that "our plan does not involve negotiations with Israel or recognizing it." Hamas and other Iranian-backed terrorist groups in Gaza have also stepped up their smuggling of Iranian arms and increased their mortar and rocket attacks against Israeli civilians, firing more than 130 during the past month alone and nearly 300 this year.  Hamas’ response to the killing of Osama Bin Laden, condemning “the assassination and killing of an Arab holy warrior” is emblematic of Hamas’ ideology and underscores Hamas’ continued support for terrorism.

The United States should stand by its refusal to work with any Palestinian government that includes Hamas.  We welcome statements from the Administration recognizing that Hamas is a terrorist organization and insisting that it accept the Quartet conditions (of recognizing Israel’s right to exist, rejecting violence, and endorsing previous Israeli-Palestinian peace agreements).  We strongly support Secretary Clinton’s 2009 Statement that: “we will not deal with nor in any way fund a Palestinian government that include Hamas until Hamas has renounced violence, recognized Israel and agreed to follow the previous obligations of the Palestinian Authority.”

It is imperative for you to make clear to President Abbas that Palestinian Authority participation in a unity government with an unreformed Hamas will jeopardize its relationship with the United States, including its receipt of U.S. aid.  As you are aware, U.S. law prohibits aid from being provided to a Palestinian government that includes Hamas, unless the government and all its members have publically committed to the Quartet principles.  We urge you to conduct a review of the current situation and suspend aid should Hamas refuse to comply with Quartet conditions.

Ultimately, the legitimacy of any peace process must always be weighed against the assurances Israel needs for its security and the security of the region.  Hamas’ participation in the Palestinian government eliminates the trust and commitment to peace that must exist between the parties to move forward and therefore, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stated, the choice is between “peace with Israel or peace with Hamas” because “there is no possibility for peace with both.”

As fellow Democrats, we thank you for your continued commitment to and investment in Israel’s security.   We urge you to make clear to President Abbas and the international community the United States’ opposition to a Fatah-Hamas unity government that does not fully accept the Quartet principles.  Such a government will prove fatal to the peace effort, as well as to efforts to establish a Palestinian state, and will severely harm relations with the United States.  The Palestinian Authority needs to get back to the negotiating table rather than pursue futile and harmful efforts to join with Hamas or seek recognition of Palestinian statehood at the UN. 

Sincerely,


Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr.
Senator Robert Menendez
Senator Daniel Inouye
Senator Carl Levin
Senator Max Baucus
Senator Joseph Lieberman
Senator Kent Conrad
Senator Frank Lautenberg
Senator Charles Schumer
Senator Barbara Boxer
Senator Daniel Akaka
Senator Barbara Mikulski
Senator Ron Wyden
Senator Bill Nelson
Senator Debbie Stabenow
Senator Ben Nelson
Senator Mark Pryor
Senator Benjamin Cardin
Senator Sherrod Brown
Senator Amy Klobuchar
Senator Jon Tester
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand
Senator Al Franken
Senator Joe Manchin
Senator Christopher Coons
Senator Richard Blumenthal
Senator Claire McCaskill

                                                           
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