US Senator Bill Hagerty (R-TN) warned on Thursday that the Biden administration’s decision to award the Palestinian Authority with millions of dollars in US aid violates the law and will directly benefit Hamas.
Speaking to the Washington Free Beacon following a trip to Israel this week, Hagerty said Israeli leaders he met with expressed concerns about the Biden administration’s Middle East policies, particularly its most recent effort to push through more than $100 million in aid to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
Concerns about this aid money are mounting in Congress in the wake of the State Department’s admission that it cannot guarantee taxpayer dollars will be kept from enriching Hamas.
Hagerty, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, spent several days in the Jewish state with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) meeting with top Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, among others.
“Hamas is taking their toll, they’re involved in everything that moves in and out of the Gaza Strip,” Hagerty told the Free Beacon. “They will redirect [the aid money]. If you send in money and materials for reconstruction, the concrete that’s being utilized there in Gaza is actually being used to build tunnels for [Hamas], not rebuilding houses.”
He stated that there is no way the administration can “provide aid to them under current conditions and not have Hamas benefit from this. What’s more than likely to happen, whether it’s Hamas or the Islamic Jihad, they are going to benefit from the aid we are flowing into that area.”
Hagerty also said the State Department’s decision to immediately deliver aid to the PA violates the Taylor Force Act, which was passed in 2018 and prohibits American assistance from being delivered to the PA until it stops using this money to fund terrorists and their families.
Hagerty said the Israeli leaders he met with expressed concern over the Biden administration’s renewed diplomacy with Iran, which funds Hamas, saying it could lead to massive sanctions relief that will help Tehran fund future attacks on Israel. There are also fears the United States’ engagement with Iran will undermine the historic peace agreements reached last year between Israel and its Arab neighbors.
“Are the people in Israel concerned, the leadership, with our movement toward Iran? Absolutely. They were very clear to me that Iran is the existential question here,” Hagerty said. “At the root of all of this is the Biden administration’s stated movement back toward the flawed Iran deal that will put millions of dollars back in the hands of Iran and embolden our enemies.”
The PA had been boycotting the US since 2017, in protest of then-President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the relocation of the US embassy in Israel to the city.
However, since taking office, the Biden administration has renewed ties with the PA.
A recently released document reveals that the Biden administration is crafting a plan aimed at “resetting” US ties with the PA.
During his visit to Israel last week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Israel to move forward with permitting large-scale aid to the Gaza Strip and other steps designed to “give hope” to Gazans. Blinken said these concerns trump Israel’s years-long effort to secure the release of several civilians and the remains of two IDF soldiers being held by Hamas in Gaza.
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