March 5, 2007


Contact: Lynne Weil, 202-225-5021

Lantos, Key Members of Foreign Affairs Committee Ask Rice to Reconsider Aid Package for Palestinians

Washington, DC – The chairman and four leading members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs have asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to reconsider a plan to grant $86 million to support Palestinian security forces in light of the recent agreement between the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the terrorist group Hamas.

“This agreement has immensely complicated the search for peace, as you well know,” wrote committee Chairman Tom Lantos (D-CA), along with Ranking Member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Representatives Gary Ackerman (D-NY) and Mike Pence (R-IN), the chairman and ranking member of the subcommittee covering the Middle East.  “Moreover, its timing -- on the eve of your trilateral summit with Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert -- calls into question the motives and intentions of both Abbas and Saudi Arabia.”

The committee members, who previously had supported the proposed $86 million security package, said they were “deeply disappointed” that Abbas had committed his Fatah party to forming a government with Hamas without insisting that the group recognize Israel, renounce violence, and accept all previous Israeli-PLO agreements.

“The fact that Fatah will now join a government led by Hamas terrorists -- and will do so with Abbas's blessing -- raises serious questions about the commitments and loyalties of the Palestinian security forces we had undertaken to assist,” their letter said. “For example, questions arise as to whether these forces will be strictly under Abbas's control and whether Abbas, in line with our long-time belief, is truly committed to peace and non-violence. We believe it is critical to have answers to these questions before going forward with the $86 million package.      

“Accordingly, we urge you not to go forward with this package until such time as these questions can be answered clearly and in a manner that demonstrates that the PA’s Presidential Guard, National Security Forces, and any other relevant PA security force answer only to a PA President who favors peace and non-violence and are in no way answerable to terrorists. In addition, it should be clear that the PA President intends to use these forces only in a manner that enhances the prospect for peace and that does not in any way support terrorists or their aims. We believe these answers should be clear to us as well as to you before you proceed with the package, and we anticipate that you will consult us accordingly.”

Chairman Lantos and his colleagues asked the Secretary of State “to provide more details on who exactly will be receiving the funds, on what terms, and with what kind of on-the-ground oversight and auditing.” They also sought assurances from the Administration “that it will immediately cut off assistance if the PA, Abbas, or the relevant Palestinian security forces are not fulfilling their commitments.”

“We regret that Abbas has taken this step,” the letter concluded. “Since he has done so, however, it is vital that we see, at a minimum, a serious re-assessment of his motives and intentions and that we place far more stringent requirements on his receipt of this assistance.”