Thursday, November 24, 2005

Congress, Hamas, and Elections

A resolution is currently working its way through the House of Representatives (H.Res.575), submitted by Congressmen Cantor, Menendez, Ros-Lehtinen, Berkley, McCaul (Texas), and Wexler, both Democrats and Republicans, which would overturn the Bush administration policy of allowing Hamas to participate in upcoming Palestinian elections.

After all of the justifications ("Whereas x, y, z"), the crux of the resolution:

Whereas the United States has a longstanding policy of not dealing or negotiating with terrorists: Now, therefore, be it

    Resolved, That the House of Representatives--
      (1) reaffirms its commitment to the safety and security of the democratic State of Israel;
      (2) asserts that terrorist organizations, such as Hamas , should not be permitted to participate in Palestinian elections until such organizations recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, cease incitement, condemn terrorism, and permanently disarm and dismantle their terrorist infrastructure;
      (3) calls on the Palestinian Authority President Abbas before the election to declare openly his intention to take action to dismantle the terrorist organizations;
      (4) asserts that the inclusion of Hamas, or any other terrorist group on the State Department list of foreign terrorist organizations, into the Palestinian governing structure will inevitably raise serious policy considerations for the United States, potentially undermining the continued ability of the United States to provide financial assistance and conduct normal relations with the Palestinian Authority; and
      (5) states its strong belief, as underlined in every recent Israeli/Palestinian peace agreement, that progress in the peace process requires sustained Palestinian effort to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure, and that delay in confronting that principal obligation only emboldens the opponents of peace and threatens its realization.

As the Jerusalem Post points out:
Even if this resolution passes congress, it still does not have much practical significance, because foreign policy issues are determined by the administration, not by congress. Yet the fact that US lawmakers are threatening to curb financial assistance to the PA is noteworthy, because any authorization of foreign aid assistance needs to go through congress.
A similar resolution is going through the Senate. Unfortunately, both are simple resolutions, which means the bill is not presented to the President afterwards. A joint resolution is presented to the President for his signature, and has the power of law, just like a bill.