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General Says No to U.S. Palestinian Aid Cut-Off

The Israeli general in charge of the West Bank is on the record opposing cuts in U.S. funding to the Palestinian Authority.

“Stability in the region includes the ability of the Palestinian Authority to pay its salaries,” Brig. Gen. Nitzan Alon was quoted Wednesday as telling The New York Times. “Reducing the Palestinians’ ability to pay decreases security. American aid is relevant to this issue.”

The United States already has disbursed the $200 million in 2011 funds designated for Palestinian Authority infrastructure, but Republicans and Democrats in Congress are saying they are ready to cut all funds for 2012 because of the Palestinians’ U.N. push for statehood recognition and reconciliation talks with Hamas.

Lawmakers already have put on hold another $200 million in 2011 funds for humanitarian assistance, which goes mostly to nongovernmental groups. Another $150 million in 2011 funds is designated for Palestinian security forces; it is not clear whether lawmakers plan on obstructing this money.

Alon’s comment was notable because it was on the record; he is to retire his commission soon.

However, Israeli defense officials for months have been quietly making the case to U.S. lawmakers and others that they favor funding the PA, despite its diplomatic rifts with Israel.

Democrats in Congress say they are taking the Israeli advice into account, but Republicans – chief among them Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the chairwoman of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee – say that as a matter of U.S. policy, no monies should go to an uncooperative Palestinian Authority.

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