9 Jewish Dems urge P.A. aid boost


Nine Jewish Democrats have signed onto a letter urging more U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority. They were among 89 lawmakers to sign.

“Current levels of U.S. assistance are insufficient to leverage either real change and improvement by the Palestinian Authority, or more robust support by the international community,” says the letter to U.S. Secretary of State to Condoleezza Rice initiated by Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.), the Jewish chairman of the U.S. House of representatives Middle East subcommittee, and Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.), an Arab-American Republican. “The United States should take the lead in organizing international assistance to the Palestinian Authority.”

The letter urges assistance for “financial and personnel reforms in the Palestinian Authority, for housing or other labor intensive projects, for the effective operation of a Palestinian police force and an independent Palestinian judiciary, and for long-term economic development and job creation programs.” It also asks Rice to press Arab nations to increase assistance and to “engage” with Israel toward the transfer of Palestinian tax monies collected by Israel.

The Bush administration currently is committed to about $270 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority, although it recently asked Congress to approve another $410 million. The letter says such assistance is critical to the peace conference Rice is convening in late November in Annapolis, Md.

The letter will be sent to Rice later this week.

Among the nine – out of 29 – Jewish Democrats in the House signing the letter are Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the chairman of the Oversight Committee. Virtually every Arab American in the House has also signed on.

Lobbying for the letter are four dovish pro-Israel groups: the Israel Policy Forum, Americans for Peace Now, Brit Tzedek v’Shalom and Reform’s Religious Action Center, as well as the Arab American Institute, the American Task Force on Palestine and Churches for Middle East Peace. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee supports the letter.

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