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Congress should cut foreign aid to Palestine

By Brian McCarty
On April 29, 2014

This week Senator Rand Paul is introducing a bill in the Senate that will eliminate U.S. aid to Palestine unless it agrees to a ceasefire and recognizes the right of Israel to exist. Given the recent announcement that rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah are pursuing reconciliation and unification, it is important that the United States do all it can to promote peace in the troubled region. It is difficult to know how much, if any, impact Paul's bill will have on Palestine. Nonetheless, we should take any and all actions that may encourage the warring parties to seek an equitable agreement.
This bill is best understood as a response to the likely reconciliation of Hamas and Fatah. The Palestinian political party Fatah is in power in the West Bank region whereas Hamas controls the Gaza strip. Although Fatah has recently advocated peaceful negotiation with Israel, the more militant Hamas refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist and warfare continues in Gaza. The reunion of these two groups raises serious questions over what goals and positions this united government will have. Recognizing this reality, Senator Paul is seeking to push the united Palestinians to reject the violent tactics of Hamas. The outcome of these Palestinian talks is crucial to the fate of the region and if cutting aid may push the Palestinians in a direction that encourages peaceful negotiations, that action should be pursued.
The militant position of Hamas makes negotiations entirely impossible. If Palestine does not recognize Israel's right to exist, no peace can be obtained unless one side completely and utterly subjugates the other. This will lead to prolonged and bitter warfare, a terrible tragedy for an already restive region. In the past, political differences among rival groups of Palestinians have made negotiation rather difficult. With the reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, this may no longer be the case. A united Palestine that adopts a policy of nonviolent negotiation would be the greatest hope for peace this region has seen in several years.
However, it cannot be denied that there are many historical factors that explain the deep Palestinian enmity toward the state of Israel. After Great Britain obtained the land now known as Israel from the defeated Ottoman Empire after World War I, Zionist groups sought to carve an independent homeland for themselves out of this British protectorate. To achieve this, European Jews immigrated to the region en masse. In 1922, Jews represented 11 percent of the region's population. By 1945, the proportion had risen to about 31 percent. Jewish military groups engaged in armed struggle against the British and demanded the creation of a Jewish state. The British government, unable to conciliate the Jewish and native Arab populations and facing the loss of its colonies across the globe, abandoned the region. As expected, intense warfare broke out between the Arab and Jewish peoples, resulting in Jewish victory and the exile of hundreds of thousands of Arabs from Palestine. Reflecting this and rapid Jewish immigration, Jews made up about 86 percent of the region's population in 1967. Given these events, the hostility of the Palestinians is understandable.
This being said, the state of Israel has been a strong and enduring nation for several decades. It has developed stable political institutions and a vibrant economy. The people of Israel take great pride in their history and traditions. These are also indelible facts and must be recognized. The Palestinians cannot turn the clock back to 1948 and must recognize political realities. Whatever grievances the people of Palestine may have, the fact of the matter is the state of Israel does exist and has defended its right to so exist several times. Given these truths, it would be best for a united Palestine to recognize Israel's right to exist and pursue a long-desired negotiated peace. If the United States can take any action that will inspire Palestine to take this crucial step for peace in the region, it should do so. The United States should not give foreign aid to any nation whose policies lead to increased violence and instability around the globe and Congress should pass Rand Paul's bill.

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