Politics & Policy

A Wholly Imperfect Union

The Proposed Palestinian Unity Government won't work.

#ad#Supporting or even recognizing any government in which such a terrorist organization participates would be a tremendous mistake. Such a move would constitute an unmitigated disaster for the Palestinian people and a wholly unacceptable development that would undermine U.S. interests and policy, hinder peace efforts, and herald nothing but continued pain and suffering for Israelis and Palestinians alike.

In February of this year, shortly after Hamas rose to power, I introduced the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act with the ranking member of the International Relations Committee, Tom Lantos. In it, we call for a suspension of direct aid to the Palestinian Authority until the president certifies that certain conditions have been met – chief among those, that no part of the Palestinian government be controlled by Hamas or other such terrorist group and no member of a foreign terrorist organization serves in a senior policymaking position in the PA.

The House passed the bill with an overwhelming majority, reaffirming our resolve that U.S. assistance not go to support terror against American citizens and against the men, women, and children of our democratic ally, Israel.

However, the talks about the unity government and the European Union’s reaction to the reports, is causing some to weaken their resolve and seek to bifurcate our approach to the PA by allowing U.S. assistance to flow to some ministries and offices that are not headed by a Hamas or other such terrorist official.

One would hope that these leaders understand that money is fungible and that assistance can be diverted.

In addition, one would hope those ready to embrace a unity government that has a plurality of its ministries and offices controlled by Palestinian terrorist organizations, would heed the lessons of history and look to the disastrous consequences of such a policy approach used with Lebanon.

In the Lebanese case, Hezbollah, the Iranian and Syrian-supported terrorist group that initiated and drove the recent round of violence in the region, has been a part of the Lebanese government since June 2005. Unfortunately, rather than waiting for UN Security Council resolution 1559 to be fully implemented, forcing Hezbollah to disarm before allowed to participate in the Lebanese elections, the international community rushed to judgment and proceeded to support a Lebanese government that includes two Hezbollah ministers. Combined with the 14 out of 128 seats it holds in the Parliament, Hezbollah has effectively paralyzed the government and thwarted any attempts at freeing southern Lebanon from its grip.

If this is the detrimental impact that a small faction can have on a government’s functioning, how much more would a Hamas-dominated unity government inevitably have in increasing the threat to U.S. interests and allies in the region?

Rather than working to alleviate the plight of the Palestinian people, an alliance with terror groups like Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) could only destroy any hope of achieving sustainable peace and security between the Israelis and Palestinians.

The answer to the Palestinians’ quandary is simple and is articulated in the legislation adopted by the House. Only once Hamas or other such terrorist entities participating in a Palestinian Authority recognize Israel’s right to exist, renounce terror and declare their commitment to the agreements already signed between Israel and Palestinians, can the PA be seen as a legitimate partner. Until it does so, the international community and, specifically, the U.S. should have no part in directly or indirectly legitimizing and empowering Hamas, PFLP or other such entity.

We eagerly await the day a Palestinian leadership committed to peace and nonviolence arises to meet its Israeli partners. When that day comes, the United States, too, will rise to the task, ready to support any true movement towards peace and security. But that day will not be hastened by this proposed unity government– this wholly imperfect union.

— Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen serves as chair of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and Central Asia.

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