U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH), Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, made the following opening statement earlier today at a Foreign Affairs Committee hearing examining U.S. funding to the Palestinian Authority. For more information on the hearing, titled "Promoting Peace? Reexamining U.S. Aid to the Palestinian Authority, Part II,".
Statement by Chabot:
"Since taking office, President Obama has reiterated numerous times his belief that the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of America's "core interests' in the Middle East. Over the past two years, however, even as the Palestinian leadership has repeatedly retreated from a meaningful peace process, American assistance has remained unchanged. Plainly speaking, a fundamental disconnect has formed between our aid policy and our policy objectives.
"I recently travelled to Israel and the West Bank where I was able to witness firsthand the tremendous gains that have been made on the ground. Indeed, the two most prominent features of the Ramallah landscape are construction cranes and unfinished buildings. Unfortunately the current Palestinian leadership appears all too willing to sacrifice the achievements of Prime Minister Fayyad's state-building effort in the name of political theatrics. Instead of capitalizing on these gains through honest negotiations with Israel, the Palestinian leadership seems to be dead-set on pursuing a path of unilateralism before the UN Security Council and/or the General Assembly this September.
True Israeli-Palestinian peace can only be made between two peoples, Israelis and Palestinians, and not the 191 other participants at the General Assembly. If decades of frustration have taught us nothing else, it is that the road to Palestinian statehood does not start in New York, and it is not the place of the United States, the United Nations or any other country or institution to short-circuit the requisite negotiations between the two parties. Indeed, a unilateralism is simply rejectionism by another name.
"For years we have invested heavily both money and effort to help the Palestinians build a state for themselves, and it is irrefutable that our work has yielded results. The security gains on the ground in the West Bank have enabled unprecedented economic growth. Israelis have felt comfortable making security concessions that would have been unthinkable even a few years ago. But just because our current aid policy has yielded results, that does not mean that it is currently or that it will in the future. Under the best economic conditions, U.S. aid should not be an ever-flowing stream of taxpayer money; under the current economic conditions it simply cannot be.
"The fact of the matter is that we are rapidly approaching a watershed moment in U.S.-Palestinian relations. Both the potential reconciliation government with Hamas and the unilateral campaign at the UN could not be more contrary to U.S. interests in the region. Rejectionist elements within the Palestinian leadership still refuse to sit and negotiate in good faith even as Israel reiterates its commitment to the establishment of a Palestinian state. Time and again, Israel has demonstrated its commitment to a Palestinian state living as its neighbor in peace and security. But there are no shortcuts on the path to this outcome, and there is no getting around the hard concessions that will have to be made. Although short-term security may be achievable unilaterally, peace is not; Palestinian rejectionism -- whether by Hamas or Fatah -- must be abandoned.
"If the Palestinians continue on their current path, the question before this Congress will not be what portion of our aid will be cut, but rather what portion will remain."