In the wake of a number of video revelations highlighting his eccentric views on foreign policy and more recent stumbles, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is offering legislation some would think would endear him to pro-Israel voters who have become wary of his potential presidential candidacy. He introduced a measure that would prohibit “any direct United States assistance, loan guarantee, or debt relief to the Palestinian Authority, or any affiliated governing entity or leadership organization.” The exceptions would be if the president certifies that the P.A. has:
(1) Formally recognized the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state;
(2) Publicly recognized the state of Israel;
(3) Renounced terrorism;
(4) Purged all individuals with terrorist ties from security services;
(4) Terminated funding of anti-American and anti-Israel incitement;
(5) Publicly pledged to not engage in war with Israel; and
(6) Honored previous diplomatic agreements.”
U.S. law already prohibits funding to Hamas, which should be triggered if a unity government with Fatah comes into being. It also bans aid to the Palestinian Authority absent a presidential waiver. Paul spokesman Brian Darling, in an extended e-mail exchange, highlighted some differences with current law, most especially its elimination of a presidential waiver in the event it is in our national security interests to allow the aid. He told me that “the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006, contains a national security waiver that allows the President to waive elements of the law. Senator Paul’s legislation does not contain a national security waiver.” Paul’s bill, his spokesman said, “takes the subjectivity out of the law by mandating that the PA renounces terrorism and terminates anti-American and anti-Israel incitement.”
However, here is where the intricacies of the Israel-U.S. relationship come into play. In fact a complete cutoff of funds to the P.A. as Rand Paul’s measure sets out would pose a knotty problem for Israel and for our joint anti-terror efforts more generally, according to a number of experts and pro-Israel activists.
A former U.S. official critical of the administration explained that the bill is dangerous insofar as “it denies any flexibility in areas where flexibility is of great importance for Israeli security. It would mean zero funding of any Palestinian security service, even if that service is doing yeoman work against Hamas and works secretly hand in glove with Israel to stop terror against Israelis. Why is that smart?”
Despite multiple attempts to clarify whether in fact Paul’s bill would cut off aid in such situations, his spokesman refused to answer. Instead he insisted, “If the PA complies with the provisions of this bill, then they would continue to be eligible for foreign aid.” But of course the problem is that the P.A. is not about to comply with all of these items in the short run, and Israel therefore may be deprived of vital anti-terror assistance if the P.A. stops cooperating with Israel because it fears a loss of aid. (Moreover, certain other provisions don’t seem to be on-point. The P.A.’s incitement of terror, for example, doesn’t necessarily require any funding; it is the words and conduct of P.A. officials often involving no monetary element that are concerning.)
Perhaps the senator will modify his proposal as he takes into account the nuances of the anti-terror relationship between Israeli and P.A. forces. In his defense, he is not alone in demanding a complete cutoff of aid. It is tempting to take a sledgehammer to cripple aid to the P.A., which has so egregiously violated its international obligations. Sometimes, however, a very sharp scalpel is required instead.
In any case, Rand Paul should be encouraged if he wants to get on the right side of the issue and not merely tp find an excuse to slash foreign aid, which he generally regards as anathema. If nothing else, these sorts of measures will increase pressure on the administration to exact some penalty for the P.A.’s abrogation of its international responsibilities.