Published by The Freeman Center
The Maccabean Online
Political Analysis and Commentary
Israel Lobbying Congress for the Palestinians and UNRWA
By Caroline B. Glick
Jewish World Review
26 July, 2011/ 24 Tamuz, 5771
The bill likewise prohibits further security assistance to Lebanon until the president certifies that no members of Hezbollah hold positions in any governmental agency or outlet.
Finally it prohibits security assistance to the PA until the president certifies that no member of Hamas holds any policy position in any governmental office or outlet; that the PA is dismantling extremist infrastructure in Gaza and Judea and Samaria; that the PA has halted anti-Israel incitement; and that the PA recognizes Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state.
As committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen told The Jerusalem Post last week, "Basically, if Hamas, Hezbollah, other foreign terrorist organizations or violent extremist groups hold policy positions in their respective governments, they are not to receive US assistance."
The bill is a clear demonstration of the depth of support for Israel among members of the House of Representatives. It is also a clear demonstration of the depth of concern House members harbor regarding Obama's policies towards Israel and the wider Middle East.
SINCE TAKING office, Obama has refused to accept the positions put forward by his predecessor George W. Bush regarding Israel's final borders and the Palestinian demand to overrun Israel with UN-financed "refugees."
Those positions were codified in Bush's 2004 letter to then-prime minister Ariel Sharon.
Bush's letter stated that the US would not support an Israeli withdrawal to the 1949 armistice lines; would not support the uprooting of all the Israeli communities built outside those lines; and rejected the Palestinian demand for the so-called "right of return" of millions of foreign born, UNRWA-supported Arabs to Israel.
The House bill codifies Bush's letter as US law. It also requires the State Department to report to Congress on steps it is taking to fight the delegitimization campaign against Israel. It ends the presidential waiver for moving the US embassy to Jerusalem in 2014. It requires the State Department to list Jerusalem as part of Israel on official US documents.
The House bill has a long road to travel before it becomes US law. Chances that it will pass as written are slight, and not merely because Obama would likely veto it if it came to his desk.
The first obstacle it faces is in the Democrat-controlled Senate. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is led by Senator John Kerry. Kerry is no friend of Israel's. And he is a passionate supporter of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad. He visited Hamas-controlled Gaza in February 2009. In his current position, Kerry has served as a surrogate for Obama on Middle East issues. As early as March 2009, Kerry was calling for Israel to transfer control over Gaza's international borders to Hamas terrorists. He was also demanding that Israel bar Jews from building in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. Kerry has been an outspoken opponent of action against Iran's illicit nuclear installations. He has acted as an apologist for Assad's illicit nuclear proliferation. He has also been a friendly visitor to Hezbollah/Iran-controlled Lebanon. Given Kerry's positions, there is no chance that he will approve the House's bill.
But in opposing the bill, Kerry and his fellow Democrats will reportedly be ably assisted by Israel. Last week, the Post reported that the Democrats justify maintaining US support for the PA by arguing that they are simply doing the bidding of the Israeli government.
And speaking to the Post, an Israeli official said, "We are interested in the Palestinian Authority maintaining law and order, and strengthening their security forces and prospering. If there's no change with Hamas and Fatah [in terms of Hamas participation in a unity government], there's no reason to change the current situation."
Other media reports have claimed that the IDF General Staff opposes ending US assistance to the PA. Moreover, in the past, Israeli leaders - first and foremost former foreign minister Tzipi Livni - have been outspoken supporters of US financial assistance to UNRWA.
Indeed, members of Congress note that if it weren't for Israeli objections, they would have ended US financial support for UNRWA years ago.
It is hard to see what Israeli interest is served by these positions. And it is even more difficult to understand how it serves the country's interest to use any of its leverage in the US Congress to lobby for the Palestinians or UNRWA.
To a large degree, these positions are the consequence of the failure and basic irrelevance of Israel's public discourse. Controlled by the political Left, the public debate in Israel has never allowed the basic assumptions of the failed Oslo peace process with the PLO to be questioned. Among other things, those assumptions include the view that for Israel to garner international support, it needs to be perceived as pro-peace by the international community.
And that assumed requirement has made it necessary for Israeli diplomats and policymakers to cleave to the discredited position that the Palestinians are interested in peace and should therefore be supported by the US specifically and by the international community generally.
In 1993, the embassy in Washington began lobbying Congress to approve hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance to the PA. And because the ideological and policy assumptions of the Oslo process have never been scrutinized despite the policy's abject failure, apparently, this remains the underlying policy assumption of the Foreign Ministry in its dealings with foreign governments, including the US Congress.
The IDF's support for the PA is not an indication of the PA's strategic value to Israel. Rather it is reflective of the army's confusion about its role.
US-trained and -financed PA security forces took lead roles in the Palestinian terror war against Israel from 2000 to 2004. IDF field commanders have no confidence that the new Palestinian US-trained forces deployed in Judea and Samaria will stand with Israel against their terrorist brethren in a future conflict. Indeed, several have expressed confidence that in a future conflict, these UStrained forces will again lead the fighting against Israel.
The IDF is likely defending US funding to these enemy forces because its commanders fear that if the PA collapses due to a lack of US funding, the IDF will be called on to perform its law and order functions. But again, this view is in large part the consequence of the absence of an informed public debate about Israel's policy option in light of the failure of the Oslo process.
If the PA collapses, the option of reverting to Israel's military rule of the areas is not Israel's only option. Israel can also apply Israeli law to Judea and Samaria. The police can take up the law and order functions carried out by the PA today. And the IDF can concentrate on war fighting.
The fact of the matter is that contrary to what the anti-Semites claim, Israel does not control the US Congress. And what Israel says has limited impact on lawmakers.
Democrats who cite official Israeli support for aid to the Palestinians as the justification for their support of such aid are quick to ignore Israel's positions when it comes to moving the US embassy to Jerusalem and supporting Jewish property rights in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.
But Israel does have some leverage on Capitol Hill. And it should be using all of it to build support for attacking Iran's nuclear installations and defending and strengthening Israel's ability and sovereign right to defend itself.
Israel certainly should not be expending any of its limited influence to maintain US support for the Palestinians or UNRWA.
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JWR contributor Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East Fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, DC and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post, where her column appears.