Indeed, Rand Paul introduced legislation and repeatedly has said he wants to cut all aid to the Palestinian Authority (which hasn’t and isn’t likely to meet his conditions in the bill). Paul got little support in Congress for exactly the reasons that prompted the letter. Israel does not want the PA to disappear and neither does any responsible U.S. administration. Both need the PA to reform, end corruption and live up to its obligations. For better or worse, mostly for worse, the PA is the only entity capable of cooperating with Israel in the West Bank on security and perhaps gradually supplanting Hamas in Gaza, though I have my doubts that is possible.
This raises the interesting question as to what would happen if the PA became even less effective (as it would with a total cutoff of U.S. funds) in acting with Israel on security and ceased to operate as it does now in the West Bank as the local governmental authority. I suppose Hamas would supplant it and then Israel would be bombarded from both directions. Although well-intentioned, Paul’s position, if enacted, would be disastrous for Israel and for our joint interest in pushing back against Hamas.
The letter from a bipartisan grouping of pro-Israel senators including disparate figures — from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) to Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) — tells us that with very few exceptions at the extremes of both parties, there is a conscientious and robust majority in the Senate to do more than simply mouth platitudes about “having Israel’s back,” as the president says. As with the Menendez-Kirk sanctions bill, which had some 77 supporters including all Republicans but two (Rand Paul being one of them), there is a large block of senators willing and able to challenge Obama on Israel policy and take pains to repair the frayed U.S.-Israel relationship.
When not hindered by Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who is running interference for the White House, Congress can act as a check on the White House’s anti-Israel instincts. It’s one more reason to put a GOP majority in the Senate and to remember the perils of electing a president who mouths support for Israel but has very little understanding or empathy for the difficult choices facing the Jewish state.