Joel Mowbray

Treasury designations against entities controlled by a new unity government could result in assets being frozen, not just in the United States, but around the world. By themselves, Treasury designations aren't necessarily crippling, but they can be very painful and make life much more difficult.

Financial pain could be a critical pressure point. According to several media reports, Abbas' top economic adviser, Mohammed Mustafa, is one of the leading candidates to head the new Fatah-Hamas unity government. This signals not just a political closeness between Fatah and Hamas, but also potentially an economic one — an obviously troubling sign.

Although the latest push for a unity government could collapse, Abbas already was on very shaky footing in Washington following his defiance of the Obama administration in insisting on the statehood vote at the United Nations.

What has saved Abbas in the past has been the steadfast support of Israel and its allies, on the grounds that his leadership was a preferable alternative to Hamas. Now it's not so clear.

In his push for a unity government, Abbas has attempted to sideline PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, long viewed as the only high-ranking Palestinian official who could be trusted to direct Western assistance for the betterment of the Palestinian people.

Without Fayyad at the helm, neither Republicans nor Democrats feel confident in the PA's ability to use responsibly the hundreds of millions of dollars in annual U.S. assistance. Of course, because money is fungible, any impropriety by the PA is ultimately funded by U.S. taxpayers, directly or indirectly.

Echoing comments from several of his colleagues, Rothman maintains that the Palestinians deserve meaningful scrutiny, noting, "So long as the Palestinians are receiving U.S. taxpayer aid, there must continue to be vigorous enforcement of the laws on the books that require the Palestinians to end incitement and maintain a single Treasury account for financing to enable U.S. oversight."

In years past, when the PA either appeared to be attempting negotiations with Israel or was being wooed to the bargaining table, enforcement of solid U.S. laws waned in areas such as incitement or transparency. In some instances, the PA was outright given a free pass.

But that was when Abbas was seen as the Great Hope for Peace. After the U.N. vote, the unity government and other recent provocations, he appears to have few friends left in Washington.

All of this could leave the Palestinians in an unusual position in Washington: on the defensive. If Congress has its way and the U.S. really puts the PA under the microscope, Abbas might not like what results.


Joel Mowbray

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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