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House warns P.A. on statehood moves

JTA

July 8, 2011 | 10:08 am

President Barack Obama speaks to a joint session of Congress (2009)

President Barack Obama speaks to a joint session of Congress (2009)

The U.S. House of Representatives threatened to cut off funding to the Palestinian Authority if it pursues recognition of statehood outside negotiations with Israel.

A resolution passed Thursday night 406-6 “affirms that Palestinian efforts to circumvent direct negotiations and pursue recognition of statehood prior to agreement with Israel will harm United States-Palestinian relations and will have serious implications for the United States assistance programs for the Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority.”

The non-binding resolution is similar to one passed last month by the Senate.

It also calls on the Obama administration to review assistance to the Palestinians, which runs to about $500 million a year, in the light of negotiations with Hamas toward a unity government.

The Palestinian Authority has said that absent negotiations, it will bring its case for statehood to the United Nations in September.

Palestinian negotiators refuse to return to talks unless Israel freezes settlement; Israel will not consider talks with the Palestinians unless the P.A. breaks off its talks with Hamas. Israel also wants the framework of the talks to include recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, an end to refugee claims and a longterm Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee was urging its activists as late as Wednesday to press Congress, mired in budget debates, to pass the resolution.

In the end, only six lawmakers—three Republicans and three Democrats—voted against.

Among those voting against was a freshman, Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), who is affiliated with the Tea Party conservatives and who is said to be the first congressman of Palestinian descent.

Tea Party candidates were an unknown quanity to pro-Israel groups last year and since then, the Republican leadership has endeavored to secure assurances of support for Israel from the caucus.

Most have done so, although there are holdouts like Amash.

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