House lawmakers to ask Kerry for U.S. reasoning on Hamas policy

Top lawmakers on a congressional Middle East subcommittee want Secretary of State John Kerry to explain the U.S. decision to continue dealing with the Palestinian Authority now that it is backed by Hamas.

The leading Democratic and Republican members of the House of Representatives Middle East subcommittee sent a letter to Kerry June 9 seeking an explanation from the Obama administration regarding Hamas, which the United States and Israel designate a terror organization.

“Any decision to work with this unity government could be extraordinarily counterproductive in our efforts both to promote peace and to help support the security of our ally Israel,” said the letter from Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the committee’s chairwoman, and Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), its top Democrat.

In the letter, they said they are ready to convene a hearing so the administration can explain how any ongoing relationship would not violate U.S. law, which bans interactions with Hamas. Ros-Lehtinen authored the 2006 law that bans such contacts.

Israeli officials have openly criticized the White House for its decision to continue aid to and interaction with the Palestinian Authority in the wake of the establishment last week of an interim government jointly backed by Fatah, the relatively moderate group pre-eminent in the West Bank, and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip. — jta