WASHINGTON (JTA) — Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), a top congressional appropriator, said she is ready to launch steps to defund the Palestinian Authority in the wake of its unity agreement with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
“I’ll be working with the State Department on the logistics of suspending assistance,” Lowey told JTA on Thursday, after the Israeli government said it was formally suspending peace talks because of the agreement.
Lowey, the top Democrat on the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee, said the only thing that would stop her from taking steps to defund the Palestinian Authority would be if its president, Mahmoud Abbas, were to reverse course on the agreement he signed Wednesday with Hamas.
“At this point the law is clear, their actions are clear and the path forward is clear,” she said.
Hamas is a U.S.-designated terrorist group, and it would be illegal for U.S. funds to reach it.
In a separate statement issued Wednesday, Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), the chairwoman of the Foreign Operations subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee, said the unity agreement could endanger U.S. funding for the Palestinians.
“Not only does this action potentially derail any hope of a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, it puts in jeopardy future U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority,” Granger said. “This is an irresponsible path forward and this agreement should be abandoned immediately if the Palestinian Authority is serious about the peace process.”
U.S. funding for the Palestinians currently stands at about $400 million annually.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that it was not yet clear whether the unity agreement would require a funding cut-off, because the nature of the resulting government had yet to take shape.
“We don’t have any details at this point to make that determination,” she said at the daily briefing on Thursday, noting reports that a new government may be comprised of technocrats not aligned with Hamas, which would support it from the outside.
Psaki said that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was still committed to advancing the peace process, despite a spate of setbacks in recent weeks.
“There have been unhelpful steps taken by both parties, there have been ups and downs,” she said. “But still, this process needs to work its way through.”