WASHINGTON – One day after the special US study group on Iraq submitted the Baker-Hamilton report recommending President George W. Bush's administration to push harder towards an Israeli-Palestinian agreement, the United States Congress passed a bill forbidding the US administration to hold talks with the Palestinian Hamas government. The bill must still be approved by President George W. Bush.
According to the bill the US will have no contact, nor provide aid to the Hamas-governed Palestinian Authority until the terror organization recognizes Israel's right to exist and denounces terror.
The pro-Israel lobby in Washington, AIPAC, put the full weight of its influence behind the 'Palestinian anti-terror act of 2006'. The bill was passed in the Senate in June and now after passing Congress as well only needs to be approved by President Bush.
The bill, while prohibiting the transfer of aid to the PA, will allow the US to offer limited aid to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and humanitarian aid to the Palestinian public as well as continued funding for aid programs.
The bill was authored by chairwoman of the House Middle East Subcommittee Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and head of the House International Relations Committee Congressman Tom Lantos. It was championed in the Senate by Senators Mitch McConnell and Joe Biden.
'Israel, Palestinians must assume responsibility'
According to the bill the US will refrain from aiding the PA directly until the president declares, among other things, that it is no longer controlled by a terror organization. The bill also forbids US officials to hold talks or meet with members of Hamas or other terror organizations. It also denies Hamas members the possibility of receiving US visas.
President Bush addressed peace efforts in the Mideast during his joint press conference with UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, emphasizing that the US cannot impose an agreement on both sides. The Israeli and Palestinians, he said, need to assume responsibility and sign an agreement and the US will help, but not impose. Bush also went on to say that the demands of the Quartet could not be ignored and that State Secretary Condoleezza Rice was working hard on the matter.