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Congress mood shifts against Abbas

There is growing sentiment in Congress against allowing $86 million in funding for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, sources said. “There is a growing mood that the package shouldn’t move,” a senior staffer in the U.S. House of Representatives told JTA. “Now it’s not clear what he represents.” U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wants the money to bolster Abbas’ relatively moderate Fatah Party against the terrorist group Hamas, but sentiment has shifted in recent days as Fatah and Hamas have come together to establish a national unity government. At least one Jewish group, the Israel Policy Forum, expressed dismay about the hold, placed by Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), chairwoman of the foreign operations subcommittee. IPF President Seymour Reich told JTA the hold sent the wrong message ahead of Rice’s Feb. 19 summit with Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Abbas might announce a compromise that could make him vulnerable to Hamas, Reich suggested. “We think Abbas should be strengthened,” he said. “It’s quite possible that something could come out of that meeting that would reflect the need for the aid for Abbas.”