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Some pro-Israel groups defend U.S. aid to Palestinians

Sep 14, 2011, 9:57 a.m.

POSTURING BY PALESTINIANS AND BY CONGRESS?

Abrams and Makovsky advised Congress on Wednesday to wait and see the content of any Palestinian U.N. resolution, as well as what happens after any vote, before slashing U.S. aid.

"Keeping some of your powder dry is probably a good idea," Abrams told the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The Palestinians might still move to negotiations with Israel after any U.N. vote, but such a move is more likely if they know Washington is "waiting and watching," he said.

Sentiment among lawmakers at the hearing was overwhelmingly in favor of an aid cutoff if the Palestinians persist with their U.N. plans.

"Despite decades of assistance totaling billions of dollars, if a Palestinian state were declared today, it would be neither democratic nor peaceful nor willing to negotiate with Israel," said the panel's chairman, Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

She said she wondered what the "tangible benefits" were of continued U.S. aid.

But there is some recognition on Capitol Hill that cutting security aid may not be the best policy.

Republican Senator John McCain said on Tuesday he would not favor a "blanket" aid cut-off and he spoke highly of some the security aid being spent on police training facilities in the West Bank.

Senator John Kerry, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was also wary. "I'd be very very skeptical about that being the right policy, but it really depends a lot on how that debate unfolds," he said.

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said no one wanted to see security aid to the Palestinians get cut but that he believed the Palestinians should pay a price for ignoring U.S. views.

"I certainly understand the anger in Congress. You ignore us and then you want us to continue giving you aid?"

(Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Doina Chiacu)

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