Note: The writers address the question, “Should the U.S. stop funding the Palestinian Authority?”
WASHINGTON — In both Republican and Democratic Administrations, with bipartisan support in Congress and support from American allies in Europe and the Middle East, the United States has established and maintained clear benchmarks for maintaining U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority: It must recognize Israel, renounce violence, and abide by prior agreements.
As long as the Palestinian Authority continues to comply with these conditions, U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority should continue.
As with U.S. aid to any government, we can and should continuously revisit the impact that U.S. aid is having — whether it is benefiting civilians as much as it could, and whether it is complying with all applicable U.S. laws, especially laws pertaining to the protection of human rights.
We should continuously seek to improve the impact of U.S. aid, but we should not cut off that aid so long as the Palestinian government is complying with the longstanding bipartisan U.S. benchmarks established for that aid to continue.
The maintenance of an effectively functioning Palestinian government serves the values and protects the interests of the majority of Americans, Israelis and Palestinians. The present Palestinian Authority is not ideal from the point of view of the majority of Americans, Israelis or Palestinians, but neither is any other government with which we work, including our own. When there is a lasting diplomatic agreement that ends the Israel-Palestine conflict, it will be between Israel and a government that shares important characteristics with the present Palestinian Authority, and that is a key reason to continue U.S. cooperation.
The Palestinian Authority represents, within Palestinian society, the hope for a permanent resolution to the conflict with Israel achieved through diplomatic and political means.
It believes that if Palestinians compromise, the Israeli government and its supporters also will compromise and that a permanent agreement that ends the conflict achieved through diplomacy and politics can match Palestinian political aspirations closely enough to earn the support of the majority of Palestinians.
If U.S. policy were to fundamentally undermine the Palestinian Authority, it would undermine these hopes and beliefs among Palestinians.
To some, no doubt, that may be the point of seeking to undermine it, that may be the goal. But it is not the goal, and should not be the goal, of the majority of Americans, Israelis or Palestinians to undermine these hopes and beliefs among Palestinians.
On the contrary, it is the goal, and should be the goal, to validate these hopes and beliefs and make them come true.
U.S. policy should work to help improve the Palestinian Authority so that it contributes more to making these hopes and beliefs come true, including by helping more Palestinians achieve their aspirations for improving their lives right now.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has been a leader in working to reform U.S. policy to prioritize helping Palestinians achieve their just, peaceful aspirations for improving their lives.
He has spoken up for the right of Palestinians in Gaza to protest peacefully without being shot with live ammunition.
Sanders also has advocated for the U.S. to work to end the crippling Israel-Egyptian blockade of Palestinian civilians in Gaza.
A Sanders letter, already signed by a number of his colleagues, calls on the Trump administration to take steps to help relieve Gaza’s urgent humanitarian crisis.
They include immediately restoring funding to the United Nations’ Palestinian refugee agency in Gaza and pressing to remove restrictions on the movement of people, goods and equipment in and out of Gaza — especially medicine, hospital supplies, and equipment for projects to ensure Palestinians have access to clean drinking water.
Sanders’ letter is headed in the right direction. We should work to improve our relationship with the Palestinians, not seek to further undermine it.
Robert Naiman is policy director at Just Foreign Policy, a Washington think-tank dedicated to reforming U.S. foreign policy to serve the interests and reflect the values of the broad majority of Americans. He holds masters degrees in economic and mathematics from the University of Illinois at Champaign. Readers may write him at Just Foreign Policy, 4410 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, DC 20016.