WASHINGTON - House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer made the following statement on the House Floor tonight regarding the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act (as prepared for delivery):
"Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleagues - Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen and Congressman Lantos, the Ranking Democrat on the Committee - for offering this bipartisan legislation.
"The premise of this bill - the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act - is eminently reasonable and one with which the American people strongly agree.
"In short, the United States of America should not - indeed, it must not - provide assistance to a government run by terrorists whose very policy and purpose is the destruction of another nation.
"All of us are rightly concerned with the plight of the Palestinian people, who have suffered tragically for decades under the leadership of Arafat and now Hamas.
"I share those concerns. I have been to Gaza and the West Bank. I have met with President Abbas and other Palestinian officials. And, I have seen the deprivation, the frustration and the lack of opportunity in the Palestinian Territories.
"However, our legitimate concern for the Palestinian people must not obscure the fact that the Palestinian Authority is now controlled by Hamas, an organization designated as a terrorist entity by the United States and European Union, and a movement that is committed to the destruction of our ally, the state of Israel.
"Thus, Mr. Speaker, I believe this balanced legislation is warranted and necessary. Among other provisions, it would prohibit direct financial transfers from the United States to the PA until the president certifies that Hamas recognizes Israel's right to exist, renounces terrorism, agrees to abide by previous PLO and PA agreements with Israel and the United States, and does not have a member of a foreign terrorist organization in a senior policy making position.
"And, despite the prohibition on direct assistance, the bill includes exceptions to this restriction. For example, the president still may provide assistance for non-security expenses directly related to facilitating a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, if the president consults with Congress and certifies that no assistance funds any person who is a member of a terrorist organization.
"Furthermore, the bill restricts indirect assistance through non-governmental organizations, unless the certification described above is made by the president.
"However, let me add, this provision contains an exception for basic human health needs such as food, water, medicine and sanitation services.
"Mr. Speaker, this bill is measured and balanced, and demonstrates the refusal of the United States to reward terrorists or terrorism.
"I urge my colleagues to support it."