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August 21, 2001
AAI Action Alert: Senate seeks to end aid to Palestinians

From AAI



Senators Dianne Feinstein and Mitch McConnell are circulating a letter among senators to cut aid to the Palestinians. AAI urges Arab Americans to contact their senators to request that they reject this initiative and to ask for a meeting with their senator or their staff before Labor Day to discuss the issue and urge them to reject it.

Senators McConnell (R-KY) and Feinstein (D-CA) seek to include an article in the foreign aid bill that threatens to impose sanctions on the Palestinian Authority pending a Presidential report assessing the Authority's compliance with anti-terrorism measures. Punishment would include one or more of the following: denial of visas to PLO and Palestinian Authority officials; prohibition of the PLO to operate in the United States; designation of the PLO as a foreign terrorist organization; and prohibition of aid to the West Bank and Gaza (excluding humanitarian assistance).

This initiative has already passed the House of Representatives as part of the foreign aid bill. You may recall AAI called on you to oppose that initiative, H.R. 1795. However, it has yet to win approval by the Senate. The Senate version is potentially even more damaging then the House version because it does not give the President the option, as the House version does, to waive the restrictions if he feels it is in the best interests of national security.

Action Requested

Call, write or email your senators at their office closest to you and request that they do not support the Feinstein-McConnell effort in any way and vote against it if it comes to a vote. Further, request a meeting with the Senator before Labor Day while s/he is still on recess. If the Senator will not meet with you accept a meeting with staff.

Talking Points

Cutting U.S. aid and straining U.S. ties with the Palestinians will not serve U.S. interests, nor will it alleviate Israel's security concerns. In fact, it is counterproductive. It does further damage to the U.S. image in the Arab world.

The Bush Administration opposes the initiative. Assistant Secretary of State and Middle East Envoy William Burns testified before the Middle East Subcommittee of the House International Relations Committee. Burns said "It's going to make it more difficult for us to continue that kind of high-level pressure [on the Palestinians] if some of the elements in the legislation are introduced and the possibility of sanctions is raised. [These initiatives] are going to make it more difficult for us to continue the kind of engagement that I think is going to be essential to bring about the compliance that we both seek."

Months of violence have left the Palestinian economy in shambles. The international community should assist the Palestinian Authority to be in a better position to provide for its citizens and gain their support in achieving a just and equitable peace. Secretary of State Colin Powell has already voiced his "deep concern for the dire economic situation that everyday Palestinians must bear."

The Bush Administration has so far not supported any punitive measures against the Palestinians. Secretary Powell and several influential members of Congress have refused to advocate cutting aid to the Palestinians as an effective course of action.

All U.S. funds for the Palestinians go to specific projects rather than to the Palestinian Authority. Furthermore, U.S. aid to the Palestinians is provided indirectly through non-governmental organizations not controlled by the PA. Every penny is regulated, completely transparent and accounted for under strict U.S. guidelines.

Even Israelis are opposed to eliminating U.S. economic aid to the Palestinians. During an April visit to Washington, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres reportedly told congressional leaders that the devastated Palestinian economy is not in Israel's best interest and that Congress should continue U.S. aid to the Palestinians.

Contact Information

Find your member of Congress:

Tips for communicating with your member of Congress:


Sample letter to Congress:

What Feinstein-McConnell would do:

What Feinstein-McConnell would cut:

AAI issue brief on U.S. foreign aid in the Middle East: