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Israel Policy Forum, 22.05.06

The House votes tomorrow on HR 4681 under suspension.  It should be defeated.
The Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections presents serious challenges to the United States.  We need to 1) secure US influence in the region 2) promote the security of Israel 3) advance Prime Minister Olmert's goal of "disengagement" from the Palestinian areas and 4) promote negotiations.  This legislation works against each of these goals, solely focusing on punishing the Palestinian people for electing (by the narrowest of margins) a Hamas government. It will accomplish little other than making ordinary Palestinians' lives more onerous, adding to the humanitarian crisis already afflicting the people of the West Bank and Gaza.
**HR 4681 leaves the United States without the levers it needs to push Hamas toward the acceptance of Israel and the rejection of violence. As a pro-Israel organization, we believe that this legislation will damage America's interests and Israel's as well by undermining the US ability to advance peace and democracy in the region.
**IPF opposes aid to Hamas and any entity controlled by Hamas but it strongly opposes legislation, such as this, which obstructs the delivery of essential aid to the Palestinian people.
**Israelis, in general, oppose the bill's approach. An IPF mission in Israel two weeks ago was told by a minister in the new Olmert government that punishing ordinary Palestinian people is "immoral and counterproductive."
**Today's New York Times reports that the Palestinian population is already suffering the effects of aid cuts and economic blockades.  The largest hospital in Gaza "can no longer provide chemotherapy for many forms of cancer, has only a few days supply of important surgical drugs…and has used up its strategic three-month cache normally kept for a health crisis."
**The bill restricts US diplomatic relations with all members of the Palestinian Authority and the PLO regardless of whether or not they are associated with Hamas.  Prime Minister Olmert told us that Israel looks to President Abbas as a partner for peace and wants him strengthened.  This bill would restrict US dealings with him and like-minded Palestinian moderates.
**The bill lacks the traditional Presidential waiver which would permit the President to waive any and all sections of this bill in the interest of American security. In other words, HR 4681 places greater importance on punishing the Palestinians than US national security.  A national security waiver should be in all legislation relating to foreign policy.  A President needs and should have this authority.
In short, this legislation is bad for America and bad for Israel.  The House should defeat it under suspension and produce a bill that advances our interests in the region rather than hinder them.