While most of the Arab world has zigged, the Palestinian establishment has zagged. As “Arab streets” rise up and many of their governments are teetering or have fallen, the two rival Palestinian factions — the terrorist organization Hamas and the “moderate” Fatah party — are attempting a unity government that would ensure continued power for the society’s favored few. Fatah’s leader, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, may have started a unity process to stave off possible grass-roots uprisings, or perhaps he wanted to unite all of Palestinian society in advance of a possible United Nations resolution in September that would unilaterally declare Palestinian statehood. Regardless, he apparently was not terribly concerned about the U.S. reaction.
Given how long it has taken President Obama to act decisively in more pressing situations in Egypt and Libya, no one is expecting the White House to act quickly to derail the internal Palestinian pact.
But that won’t stop Congress from swinging into action.
Even with Congress in recess last week, top Democratic Reps. Nita M. Lowey and Gary L. Ackerman, both from New York, wasted no time in condemning any partnership with Hamas and vowing congressional action.
The least of the PA’s concerns would be losing direct funding, which is only a fraction of overall U.S. support.
Although current law allows the president a national security waiver to release funds to a Hamas-partnered government, Mr. Obama would face a rebellion within his own party from hawkish members and most of the Jewish members, many of whom hold very senior positions. It is difficult to conceive of Mr. Obama picking a high-profile fight with his own party heading into a re-election effort in which he can’t afford to squander votes.
One of the first casualties beyond direct funding would seem to be the U.S. training of Palestinian security forces, led by Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton. Those forces are being trained, in essence, to fight Hamas — a goal that would be rendered moot.
The biggest chunk of “indirect” aid to the Palestinians comes through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which has been helping the Palestinians build physical and civilian infrastructure. USAID has been much more active in the West Bank than in Gaza since Hamas rose to power, mostly to strengthen the “moderate” Fatah party relative to Hamas and to help prepare for statehood.
Joel Mowbray, who got his start with Townhall.com, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.
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