© ReutersSenate to halt PA aid?
Unanimously-approved bill calls on President Obama to consider suspending assistance if Palestinians insist on UN bid, Fatah-Hamas unity deal.

The US Senate approved a bill Wednesday that calls for suspension of American aid to the Palestinian Authority if it insists on carrying out a plan to gain UN recognition for its statehood declaration in September.

The bill was approved by all 89 senators present. Its initiators are the Jewish and Democratic Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland and Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine.

It stipulates that the Senate opposes "any attempt to establish or seek recognition of a Palestinian state outside of an agreement negotiated between leaders in Israel and the Palestinians".

Cardin explained that the Senate has conveyed a clear message to the international community with the bill, which states that UN recognition of a Palestinian state at this stage does not promote peace. An accord is achievable through negotiations alone, he said.

The bill also "urges the President to consider suspending assistance to the Palestinian Authority pending a review of the unity agreement between Fatah and Hamas".

The two factions signed a deal ending a long-standing rivalry between them, but the agreement has run into difficulty due to a vetting process for leaders of a future unity government.

The Senate bill also determines that "United States law precludes assistance to a Palestinian Authority that shares power with Hamas unless that Authority and all its ministers publicly accept the right of Israel to exist and all prior agreements and understandings with the Governments of the United States and Israel."

A similar bill is scheduled to come up before the House of Representatives, where 293 members have already signed off on its approval.

© Avi Ohayon, GPONetanyahu addresses Congress
Israel satisfied with move

Israeli officials on Wednesday expressed their satisfaction with the Senate's decision, viewing it as a support for the stand presented by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his speech to the US Congress.

In the past few months, Israel has been pressuring American lawmakers to press the White House and threaten the Palestinians with economic sanctions if they decide to turn to the UN and declare statehood.

Israel believes that restricting the American aid to the PA may significantly affect the Palestinians leadership's decision to turn to the UN.

"Without the American money there's no Palestine," a senior Israeli source said. "The Palestinians know it, and therefore they're at odds over what would be the right move for them."

The prime minister and his associates have yet to address the Palestinian decision to approach the UN in September.

"We are looking into the matter and its consequences," a state official said. "They have already said they would approach the UN in the past, and it's not surprising.

"However, we must remember that the Palestinian Authority is not one piece, and that not everyone there thinks the same. Some believe that turning to the UN at this time will damage the PA's relations with the UN."

Israel has also refused to comment on the difficulties in establishing a Palestinian unity government, but a senior official said he doubted whether "these difficulties are a factor in renewing peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians."

Meanwhile, in another attempt to pressure the Palestinians, the US and European countries are planning to convene a summit in mid July to try to come up with a new peace initiative, which would bring the parties back to the negotiating table.