PALESTINIAN ANTI-TERRORISM ACT OF 2006 -- (Senate - June 23, 2006)
BREAK IIN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, today I would like to applaud my colleagues for passing S. 2370, the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006.
My friend, the senior Senator from Delaware, Mr. BIDEN, and I cosponsored this legislation. We were joined in our efforts by Senators FRIST, REID of Nevada, DEMINT, MIKULSKI, MARTINEZ, NELSON of Florida, HAGEL, NELSON of Nebraska, DEWINE, TALENT, ALLEN, BURNS, BOXER, BUNNING, KERRY, SALAZAR, LIEBERMAN and THUNE; all of whom are original cosponsors of this bill.
I particularly thank my colleague, the senior Senator from Indiana, Mr. LUGAR, for his leadership on this issue. He has been instrumental in fashioning language on the important question of how the United States addresses the challenges posed by the new Hamas-dominated government in the West Bank and Gaza.
The elections of January 25 in the West Bank and Gaza produced the frightening result of a majority of Hamas supporters in the Palestinian parliament. Since that time, Hamas has demonstrated its continued unwillingness to accept Israel's right to exist and to accept the prior commitments made by the Palestinian Authority. It has also failed to renounce terror. That is antithetical to our security interests in the Middle East and it is clearly unacceptable to this Senate.
Our bill would do the following: it would restrict assistance to the Palestinian Authority, PA, unless the Hamas-led PA has publicly acknowledged Israel's right to exist, has recommitted itself to all its prior agreements with Israel, has made progress toward dismantling terrorist infrastructure, and has instituted fiscal transparency. This bill would essentially deny visas to certain PA officials and restrict their travel to the United States. It also limits diplomatic interaction with Palestinian terrorist groups. Finally, this bill contains rigorous audit and oversight requirements to ensure compliance with its provisions.
In short, this legislation urges the current Palestinian Government to take another step toward joining the community of peaceful nations and to step away from the ranks of terrorism.
Let me also tell you what this bill does not do. It does not cut off assistance to the Palestinian people with respect to food, water, medicine, sanitation, and other basic human needs. Thus, humanitarian assistance that does not go through the Hamas-led PA will continue. Moreover, funding for democracy programs will also be continued.
Both Senator BIDEN and I appreciate the need not to punish the Palestinian people for actions their government may take. Our concern is with terrorism and with terrorists and in providing Hamas the proper incentives to embrace peace and to abandon the proterror stance they have taken up until now. As Prime Minister Olmert said this week before a joint session of Congress: such legislation ``sends a firm, clear message that the United States of America will not tolerate terrorism in any form.''
Democracy is about more than just elections, it is also about responsible, accountable governance. The Palestinian elections a few months back reflect this fact. International observers indicate that the elections were essentially free and fair--which in and of itself is certainly a good thing. I strongly support democratic elections. That said, any right-minded person deplores the result of those elections that placed a proterror party at the helm of parliament.
A key part of democratic governance is that elected officials are responsible for the actions they take. If Hamas persists in sponsoring terror, rejecting Israel's right to exist and refusing to accept prior commitments made to Israel, then they should be held accountable for their actions, and be prepared to forfeit the prior foreign aid investments in the West Bank and Gaza paid for by American taxpayers. The PA's budget is dependent in large part by foreign assistance, and Hamas has been put on notice by the United States and many in the donor community about the steps it must take in order to receive assistance in the future.
Foreign assistance is not an entitlement. It is not a free lunch. Foreign aid is an act of generosity from the American people to other nations, and it should be conducted in furtherance of U.S. interests and those of our allies. It must not be given to organizations that actively work against those interests. Ramas, as it now stands, is just such an organization.
The ball is squarely in Hamas's court. It can either work for the good of its citizens as an accountable democratic government should, or it can continue to act as a terrorist organization to the profound detriment of its citizens and the prospects for peace in the region.
I close by recognizing the hard work of staff on this legislation. In particular, I thank Bob Lester, Brian McKeon, Puneet Talwar, Paul Clayman, and Brian Lewis.