House warns PA on statehood moves

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

A resolution passed Thursday night by a vote of  406 to 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 nonbinding 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 PA 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 aligned with the Tea Party and who is 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 lawmakers aligned with the Tea Party.

Most have done so, although there are holdouts like Amash. The five other members who voted against the resolution were Reps. Ron Paul (R-Texas), Walter Jones (R-N.C.), Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), Nick Rahall (D-W. Va.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.).

AIPAC commended the passage of the resolution, sponsored by top leaders from both parties: Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the majority leader, and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the minorioty whip.

"AIPAC appreciates Congress’s support of Israeli efforts to forge a lasting peace with the Palestinians through direct negotiations and without the threat of violence," it said in a statement.

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