Pay for play          

Pay for play          

Should the United States set conditions on the release of funds to the Palestinian Authority, such as the planned $88.6 million release in development funds announced last week?
We say yes, but before we’re accused of harboring a double standard for the Palestinians and the Israelis, we hasten to add that we have one condition in mind, which we would apply to Israel as well.
The condition: Stay at the negotiating table. Do the hard work that’s required to reach a peace treaty that would address security for Israel, recognition for the Palestinians, the fate of all refugees — Arab and Jewish alike — and the status of Jerusalem.
As you know, members of Congress have announced a planned release of enough funding to help keep the P.A. afloat. The announcement came after the French news agency AFP reported last week that Palestinian premier Salam Fayyad was urging donor countries at a conference in Brussels to “hastily” provide promised funds to help the Palestinian Authority weather a financial crisis.
The European Union had pledged 155 million euros ($204 million), AFP reported, while the United States had not yet completed its allocations for 2011.
In fact, congressional Republicans froze $147 million in U.S. aid last year to protest the P.A.’s attempt to skirt peace talks with Israel and seek statehood status at international forums. Congress now appears ready to free up more than half the sum.
But the American people have a right to see some return on their investment.
Would such a condition do any good? Well, much groundwork must be accomplished before the two sides ever reach a final peace agreement. Trust must be re-established. Stability — on the Palestinian side, at least — needs to be achieved. (Remember that Hamas and Fatah have announced plans to reunify the Palestinian territories under one government and to hold elections this year. How this process will work out remains to be seen.)
Most of all, a cease-fire between Palestinians — be they Hamas, Fatah or some splinter group — and Israel must hold indefinitely.
Like it or not, peace negotiators are part of this process. They must stay on the job to gauge the success of each preliminary step to a treaty, work out their differences and decide when the time is ripe to move on.
They can’t do that if they are not negotiating. They must stay on the job.
A requirement that both sides negotiate in turn for U.S. funding would be an interesting test for Hamas, which has repeatedly said they would never accept a Jewish state. Would they go along with such a condition, or would they scuttle Palestinian unification?
Israel, of course, has nothing to lose by staying at the peace talks (they would never negotiate an agreement that compromises their own security), so why not set the same condition for them as well and avoid accusations of not playing fair with both sides?
Setting a condition for U.S. aid — pay for play as it were — may seem undiplomatic, but it may be just the grease needed to keep the cogs of the peace talks turning.