Brit Tzedek, J Street, IPF, APN back unity gov stance (UPDATED WITH IPF and APN)


Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, J Street, the Israel Policy Forum and Americans for Peace Now are all backing the Obama administration’s decision to recognize a possible Palestinian national unity government that includes Hamas, even if all members of the government did not agree to recognize Israel and renounce terrorism. Questions have been raised about the decision by some in Congress, including Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) Here’s the excerpt from Brit Tzedek’s letter to its supporters:

However, Obama’s Congressional opponents are now trying to obstruct his request for additional assistance to Palestinians and the potential for such aid to continue under a Palestinian unity government.  Aid is central to ensure that basic human needs of the population are met, to revive the economy, and to maintain stability. Stand with President Obama today — tell your Senators and Representative to support the Palestinian aid provisions of the FY 09 supplemental budget request.

The administration has proposed a stipulation — as part of the $83 billion spending bill — that would allow humanitarian, re-building, and other aid to continue to flow to the Palestinian Authority in the event that a unity government is formed between Fatah and Hamas.

Let’s be clear. The Obama proposal does not propose violation of U.S. law. It requires that any new Palestinian government meet 3 longstanding internationally agreed-upon criteria: recognition of Israel, renouncing of violence, and compliance with past Israeli-Palestinian agreements.

Secretary of State Clinton asked members of the Foreign Operations subcommittee not to bind the President’s hands in the event that such a unity government is formed. A Palestinian government that brings together Fatah and Hamas, Gaza and the West Bank is a more meaningful partner for peace negotiations with Israel.

Here’s J Street’s missive to backers (which also includes a call to oppose new Iran sanctions which Ami discusses here):

When it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the President is moving clearly to promote a two-state solution – including support for Palestinian institution-building and for urgent humanitarian needs – all part of the proposal first made by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to provide $900 million in aid to the Palestinians.

Not only will this assistance help alleviate human suffering in Gaza, rebuild its infrastructure, and revive its stalled economy, but it is also structured in a way that could enable the U.S. to work with a Palestinian unity government that meets relevant criteria, an important building block for advancing Israeli-Arab peace.

The opposition is going to be intense.  Just last week, for instance, Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) attacked the President’s request as allowing support for Palestinian "Nazis." [3]

Yet, according to recent polls, 69% of Israelis and American Jews would support dealing with a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas. [4]

We oppose and condemn Hamas’ use of terror and violence to achieve political ends.

Along with the majority of American Jews and Israelis, we also recognize that resolving this conflict may require bringing those who have used violence into a political process, one aim of which is to end their armed resistance.

This strategy has been met with some success in Lebanon, where America works with a government that now includes Hezbollah, in Iraq where we work with the Sunni Awakening, and of course in Northern Ireland.

President Obama intends to reverse years of diplomatic neglect in the Middle East, aiming for nothing less than historic progress to finally resolve historic conflicts.

And IPF:

“Israel Policy Forum welcomes the subtle but noteworthy shift in American policy toward Hamas and the Obama administration’s reported request of Congress for changes in U.S. law that would permit aid to Palestinians to continue even if Hamas members become part of a unified Palestinian government.

“This change was first signaled last week by Secretary of State Clinton when she declared that the U.S. would support a Palestinian unity government that included Hamas members, as long as that government met the three Quartet conditions: to recognize Israel, renounce violence and abide by previous Palestinian agreements.

“While there clearly remains a significant gap between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas in their unity discussions, it is important that American policy be prepared should progress be made.  This new position represents a significant change from requiring Hamas to meet those conditions to obliging the government of which Hamas is a part to do so. It indicates that the Obama administration realizes that no Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement is sustainable – even if it is reached — unless the nearly half of the Palestinian population that supports Hamas signs on to a future peace agreement or peace moves along the way.  Having Hamas members in a Palestinian government that accepts the peace process by serving in that government is a critical step in that direction.”

And APN, which was actually the first to back the administration proposal:

The president’s request is a welcome step towards APN’s view that U.S. relations with a Palestinian unity government should be determined on the basis of the positions taken by that government and the strategic interests of the U.S., not on the basis of whether Hamas is included in the government.

This proposal does not suggest that the Obama Administration is soft on Hamas (as some now argue). If approved by Congress, Washington’s relations with a power-sharing government would be subject to the same conditions mandated in 2006 by the (Republican-controlled) Congress and signed into law by the Bush Administration.

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