House committee approves conditioning PA aid on fighting incitement

WASHINGTON (JTA) – The U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee approved legislation that would condition aid to the Palestinians on combating incitement and not seeking unilateral independence.

The amendments passed Friday were attached to a State Department funding bill.

Both amendments were sponsored by Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), who noted in an interview with JTA that both were approved unanimously.

"I wanted to send a very strong message that support for Israel is bipartisan and strong," Engel said. "If they insist on filing for a unilateral declaration of independence" through the United Nations, "they will lose funding for the Palestinian Authority."  

The Palestinians hope to obtain recognition of statehood from the U.N. this September. Engel’s amendment on incitement toned down language in the original bill, which had been drafted by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the chairwoman of the committee.

Ros-Lehtinen’s original required certification that the PA "has halted all anti-Israel incitement in Palestinian Authority-controlled electronic and print media and in schools, mosques and other institutions it controls."

Engel’s amendment — which, he noted, Ros-Lehtinen ultimately supported — requires certification that the PA "is not engaging in a pattern of incitement against Israel," a standard that would be easier for the Palestinians to demonstrate.

The entire funding bill now goes to the House floor, and its amendments would need to survive a conference reconciling the bill with its parallel in the Senate.

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