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APN Calls for Rejection of H.R. 4681

"Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006" is expected to be considered under a suspension of the rules by the full House tomorrow.

Go to APN's ACTION ALERT to send an e-mail letter to your Representative right away!

See the Bush Administration's comments on the current version of HR 4681 which supports its intent but not the content

See "APN Corrects the Record on the AIPAC 'FAQs' Regarding HR 4681"

CONTACT: Lewis Roth - (202) 728-1893

Washington, D.C.-Americans for Peace Now (APN) today called on the U.S. House of Representatives to reject H.R. 4681, the "Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006," which is expected to be considered under a suspension of the rules by the full House tomorrow. Hamas' victory in the elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) was regrettable, and it is imperative that the international community (including the U.S.) make a concerted and coordinated effort to pressure Hamas. H.R. 4681 would impose sweeping sanctions against the Palestinians in response to Hamas' victory, putting U.S. national security at risk and undermining Palestinian moderates. Americans for Peace Now is a Jewish, Zionist organization dedicated to enhancing Israel's security through peace and to supporting the Israeli Peace Now movement.

HR 4681 unnecessarily risks U.S. national security.

The U.S. can maintain a tough line against Hamas without compromising its own national security or unreasonably tying the President's hand in the conduct of foreign policy. Rejecting terrorism is not incompatible with ensuring that U.S. national security interests remain the primary concern of U.S. foreign policy.

HR 4681, however, irresponsibly and unnecessarily subjugates U.S. national security interests to political grandstanding. It does so by eliminating the President's authority to waive sanctions in the interests of U.S. national security - a waiver that is a standard component of virtually all U.S. sanctions legislation. This waiver, which has only rarely been invoked, represents minimal flexibility for the President to waive sanctions on assistance when U.S. national security interests are at stake. Indeed, it is not difficult to imagine scenarios under which U.S. national security might clearly call for direct, quick assistance - for instance, following new Palestinian elections or in the wake of a natural disaster. Moreover, the Bush Administration has already put in place tough new restrictions on aid to the Palestinians, clearly indicating the uncompromising stance this Administration is taking in response to the Hamas victory.

APN calls on Congress to add a real national security waiver to this bill.

HR 4681 risks undermining Palestinian moderates and strengthening extremists

In response to the Hamas victory, the U.S. should seek to strengthen those Palestinians who reject violence, recognize Israel, and support a two-state solution. In so doing, the U.S. would put pressure on Hamas to reform, and strengthen those Palestinians who hopefully will replace Hamas if it fails to reform.

HR 4681, however, undermines these positions and the Palestinians who hold them by providing no political horizon for an alternative leadership to strive to reach. Under this bill, the PA - even if replaced by more welcome leadership - will likely be unable to meet the reform requirements in the short- or medium-term, especially outside the context of progress towards a peace agreement. Even if new elections were held and won by a different party, all sanctions would remain in place until the other reform requirements had been met.

APN calls on Congress to add a "sunset clause" to HR 4681, providing a political horizon for moderate, reasonable Palestinian political leaders and activists.

HR 4681 loses sight of the real priorities.

HR 4681 seeks to precondition U.S. relations with the PA - and impose sweeping sanctions - based on the demand that the PA meet a list of requirements that include wide-ranging reforms unrelated to the election of Hamas. Important as these reforms may be, neither the U.S. nor Israel has ever considered them a prerequisite for engaging with the PA (or, for that matter, the PLO, Jordan, or Egypt, in the context of their agreements with Israel). Adding these reforms as preconditions for engagement loses sight of real priorities - like saving lives - and undermines the incentive for the most critical demands to be taken seriously. For example, under this bill, if Hamas renounced terror, changed its charter, acted decisively against other terrorist organizations, disarmed its own militants, and recognized Israel, but had not yet made substantial progress toward replacing all textbooks with "materials to promote tolerance, peace, and coexistence with Israel," all sanctions would remain in place.

APN calls on Congress to reject preconditioning U.S. relations with the Palestinians on requirements that are unrelated to the specific issues raised by the Hamas election, and opt for setting focused, meaningful performance benchmarks instead.

HR 4681 loses sight of U.S. strategic interests.

A serious response to the Palestinian elections should clearly target Hamas and its control of the Palestinian Authority. Effective sanctions should clearly differentiate such targets from, for example, elected members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) who are not affiliated with Hamas or any other terrorist organization - political leaders and activists who, running on platforms that included rejection of terror, recognition of Israel, and support for a two-state solution, beat Hamas candidates in the January election.

However, HR 4681 not only fails to distinguish between Hamas and the PA, and the non-Hamas members of the PLC, it explicitly defines the PA as including the entire PLC - extending sanctions to longtime supporters of peace with Israel (like PLC member Salam Fayyad). Moreover, the bill includes extraneous sanctions that, while ostensibly aimed at Hamas, will in fact have zero impact on Hamas, but only serve to punish Palestinians who recognize Israel and reject terror, and make it difficult or impossible for the U.S. to talk to them. These include restrictions on visas (Hamas members are already barred by law from obtaining visas), limits on freedom of movement for officials of the PLO in the U.S. and sanctions on PLO representation in the United States (Hamas is not a member of the PLO - a group that recognizes and has signed agreements with Israel), and an entirely superfluous attack on the United Nations that does not even make the pretense of having anything to do with Hamas. In the interests of U.S. national security, including America's concern for Israeli security, it is vital to open the door for dialogue and engagement with alternative leaders and representatives of the Palestinians.

APN calls on Congress to reject provisions of this bill that will have no real impact on Hamas - except to strengthen them while undermining moderate Palestinian political leaders and activists. Further, APN urges Congress to reject this bill's misguided effort to attack the UN, especially at a time when Israel is asking the UN to play a greater role in providing services to the Palestinians.