Congressman Robert Wexler (D-FL), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Europe and a Senior Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, delivered a letter to European Union (EU) High Representative Javier Solana co-signed by 246 members of Congress, urging the EU to continue its policy of withholding direct aid to the new Palestinian Unity government until such time as it meets the demands of the international community. Wexler and the members of Congress who cosigned the letter have deep concerns about the makeup of the new Palestinian unity government, which is controlled by the terrorist organization Hamas. An identical Congressional letter is also being sent to European Union President Jose Manuel Barroso.
On February 21, the Quartet, composed of US, EU, UN and Russia, released a statement that "reaffirms past Quartet statements regarding its support for a Palestinian government committed to nonviolence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the road map. At this time, with the formation of a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas, and with Hamas continuing to reject the demands of the international community to recognize Israel, renounce violence, and agree to abide by previously signed agreements, it is vital that the US and EU maintain a unified position of withholding direct aid to the Palestinian government."
The Congressional letter comes on the heels of an announcement on Monday that the United States and European Union will continue to withhold recognition of the newly formed Palestinian government. Wexler believes this letter clearly expresses the view of Members of Congress who strongly oppose providing aid to the Hamas-led government.
"I join my colleagues in Congress who are deeply troubled by the formation of a new Palestinian unity government, led by Hamas. Given this disturbing development, it is critical that the international community, especially the European Union, maintain its iron clad position of not providing direct aid to a Hamas-led government until it agrees to the simple steps of renouncing violence, recognizing Israel and abiding by previously signed agreements.
"I was encouraged by the joint US-EU announcement yesterday declaring that both Washington and Brussels will continue to withhold recognition of the Palestinian unity government. While both the US and EU desire a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is essential that we remain united in our effort to thwart extremist Palestinian groups such as Hamas. I believe this letter, signed by an overwhelming majority in the House of Representatives, sends a powerful message that the Congress is opposed to providing aid to a terrorist organization that fails to meet the basic standards set by the international community," Wexler said.
Letter and Signatories Attached
Congressman Wexler is Chairman of the Europe Subcommittee, a senior member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the House Judiciary Committee, and he also sits on the Financial Services Committee.
March 20, 2007
Mr. Javier Solana
High Representative of the European Union
Council of the European Union
Rue de la Loi / Wetstraat, 175 B-1048 Brussels
Dear High Representative Solana:
We are writing to express our appreciation for the efforts of the European Union (EU) to strengthen transatlantic relations, combat global terrorism and to promote stability and peace in the Middle East. We strongly believe that given our mutual security interests cooperation between the United States and EU in these matters is crucial.
In the past two years, US-EU cooperation has yielded positive results in a number of areas, including joint counterterrorism operations, Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon, and growing opposition to Iranian nuclear development at the United Nations (UN). As we continue to work together to help create a stable, peaceful and prosperous Middle East, it is more important than ever that the Quartet remain unified, particularly as it relates to the soon-to-be formed Palestinian unity government and the continued intransigence of the terrorist organization Hamas.
As you know, the leadership of Hamas and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas recently met in Mecca, Saudi Arabia and agreed to form a Palestinian unity government. While this agreement may reduce the ongoing violence between Palestinian factions in Gaza, it does nothing to encourage a peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians and it fails to meet the most basic conditions of the international community- recognition of Israel; a renunciation of terrorism; and adherence to already existing agreements between the Israelis and the Palestinians. We have deep reservations and ongoing concerns about the intentions of a government led by a hostile Hamas that rejects the basic premise under which diplomatic relations could be conducted and remains committed to the destruction of Israel. In fact, the Hamas leadership recently restated its unwillingness to recognize Israel, saying "the position of Hamas is well known: non recognition of the Zionist entity". Nor did it renounce, "the struggle against the occupation," their well known code words for the use of violence and terror.
Recently, the US Department of State announced that it is American policy not to engage with the Palestinian Authority until such time that it formally and unequivocally meets the Quartet's basic conditions. We strongly support this policy that precludes the distribution of American aid to the P.A. government until such time. As members of Congress who support a renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace process under appropriate conditions and moderate responsible Palestinian leadership that renounces violence, we believe that there must continue to be restrictions on American, European and international aid.
We were encouraged by the February 21 Quartet statement that "reaffirms past Quartet statements regarding its support for a Palestinian government committed to nonviolence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the road map " We greatly appreciate your commitment to a peaceful future for Israel and the Palestinian people based on a two state solution, and reiterate our strong reservations about the utility of engaging with a Palestinian government that opposes such an outcome. In that regard, we strongly urge you to maintain restrictions of direct aid to any Palestinian government until such time as that government fulfills its Quartet obligations.
Diaz Balart, Lincoln
Diaz Balart, Mario
Kirk, Mark Steven
Maloney, Carolyn B.
McMorris Rodgers, Cathy
Meek, Kendrick B.
Van Hollen, Chris
Wasserman Schultz, Debbie