WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives has linked U.S. aid to the
Palestinian Authority to a ban on Hamas participation in legislative
elections next month.
The House voted 397-17 to approve a resolution that would link future
aid to the PA to the exclusion of Hamas from the Palestinian Legislative
Council elections. Elections take place on Jan. 25, and Hamas was expected
to win up to half of the 88-seat PLC.
"Terrorist organizations such as Hamas should not be permitted to
participate in Palestinian elections until such organizations recognize
Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, cease incitement, condemn
terrorism, and permanently disarm and dismantle their terrorists
infrastructure," the resolution said.
The resolution, passed on Dec. 16, warned that Hamas
participation in the PA would "potentially undermine the ability of the
United States to have a constructive relationship with or provide further
assistance to the Palestinian Authority."
The United States has been the largest donor to the Palestinians, with
more than $1.7 billion since 1994. In 2005, the Bush administration approved
about $200 million to the PA.
The House resolution also urged the PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to halt
Palestinian insurgency groups. The resolution called on Abbas to release a
timetable to dismantle the organizations.
"These terrorist organizations, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad,
operate virtually without interference from the Palestinian Authority," the
resolution said. "Since the withdrawal of Israeli military forces, the
Palestinian Authority has taken few steps to establish rule of law in Gaza."
The resolution said Hamas could eventually enter the Palestinian
political process. But the House demanded that Hamas first disarm and agree
to recognize Israel.
"When terrorist militias participate in elections, voters are
intimidated," Rep. Tom Lantos, the leading Democrat on the House
International Relations Committee, said. "The concepts of the will of the
majority and the rights of the minority are rendered meaningless."