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Ackerman hears request for P.A funding hike

U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) had qualified praise for a Bush administration request for an additional $410 million in funding for the Palestinian Authority.

“To its credit, the Bush Administration has proposed a $400 million boost in U.S. assistance, including $150 million in direct cash assistance,” Ackerman, the chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Middle East subcommittee, said at a hearing he convened Wednesday. “To its detriment, the Administration’s proposal lacks any kind of performance-based conditionality. American money has to start leveraging change, not just buying more of the same.”

Ackerman’s singling out the $150 million in direct assistance was significant because until now Congress has fiercely resisted direct cash transfers to the Palestinians, preferring project-based funding. Such funding was necessary, he said, because otherwise the United States has “no credibility” in asking the Europeans and Arabs to help fund Palestinian moderates.

Ackerman, who is Jewish, said he believed the Palestinian leadership was ready to govern and to be Israel’s partner for peace, but added that it needed incentives and disincentives attached to assistance. Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), the ranking member, sought assurances that funds donated to the Palestinian Authority would not be misappropriated.

Top Middle East and aid officials at the State Department addressed the hearing and outlined measures to tightly oversee the money. They noted that Salam Fayyad, the P.A. prime minister, has already increased transparency and has instituted measures to combat incitement in mosques.

The request, part of a much larger supplemental request for Iraq and Afghanistan war funding, will probably not be addressed by the full Congress until well into 2008.

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