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Outside editorial: Wrong way in the Mideast

Posted: October 2, 2011 - 12:07am

The following first editorial appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

It’s not unusual to see domestic politics play an oversized role in international relations, but that doesn’t make it any easier to stomach.

It has been sickening to watch both Republicans and Democrats put their personal election ambitions above everything else as they play a game of “Who Loves You More?” with Israel.

Too often, you can’t get a Democrat and Republican to agree on the time of day in Congress, but dozens have joined hands in a misguided effort to punish the Palestinian government for unilaterally seeking recognition as a state by the United Nations.

The legislators have threatened to end an annual $500 million subsidy to the Palestinians that President George W. Bush began. “Current and future aid will be jeopardized if you ... continue your efforts,” said Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, who heads a House foreign-operations subcommittee.

That threat ignores the fact that U.S. aid to the Palestinians has helped Israel by providing funding for Palestinian security forces in the West Bank. Yuval Dishkin, head of Israel’s internal security service, says the funds have helped reduce terror attacks.

David Makosvky, a project director with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said Hamas, the terrorist group that adamantly refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist, stands to benefit the most from a cutoff of aid to the Palestinian Authority.

That doesn’t matter to the American politicians. The Republicans are smelling blood after one of them won a special election in a historically Democratic, largely Jewish congressional district in New York.

The GOP presidential contenders have jumped at this opportunity to bash President Barack Obama. “We would not be ... at this very precipice of such a dangerous move if the Obama policy in the Middle East was not so naive and arrogant, misguided, and dangerous,” said Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

What’s dangerous is taking an unnecessary move against the Palestinians that would make it even harder to find a two-state solution in the Middle East. Democrats who support the effort to take away the Palestinians’ funding because they fear losing Jewish votes should be ashamed.

It is tragic that the Obama administration has failed to this point in its efforts to broker negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians that will allow both peoples to live as neighbors. It is unfortunate that the Palestinians decided to prematurely seek a U.N. vote on their status.

But it does nothing to improve the prospects for peace to have American politicians inject their aspirations into the situation.

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