House Mideast panel’s top lawmakers want Kerry explanation on Hamas

WASHINGTON (JTA) – Top  lawmakers on a congressional Middle East subcommittee want Secretary of State John Kerry to explain his decision to continue dealing with the Palestinian Authority now that it is backed by Hamas.

The leading Democratic and Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives Middle East subcommittee sent a letter to Kerry on Monday seeking an explanation from the Obama administration regarding Hamas, which the United States and Israel designate as a terror organization.

“Any decision to work with this unity government could be extraordinarily counterproductive in our efforts both to promote peace and to help support the security of our ally Israel,” said the letter from Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the committee’s chairwoman, and Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), its top Democrat.

Ros-Lehtinen and Deutch said in the letter that they are ready to convene a hearing on the issue so that the Obama administration can explain how any ongoing relationship would not violate U.S. law, which bans interactions with Hamas. Ros-Lehtinen authored the 2006 law that bans such contacts.

Israeli officials have openly criticized the administration for its decision to continue aid to and interaction with the Palestinian Authority in the wake of the establishment last week of an interim government jointly backed by Fatah, the relatively moderate group preeminent in the West Bank, and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.

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