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Two days after the U.S. Congress voted by a large majority (397 to 17) to threaten the Palestinian Authority with withholding aid if it includes Hamas in the next government, U.S. officials pressured the European donor nations to transfer $60 million immediately to the PA to pay the salaries of its officials and security apparatus. The money had been withheld in protest over PA salary hikes and unimplemented administrative reforms.

Last week in London at a meeting of the donor countries, the U.S. urged the Europeans to unfreeze the funds out of concern that the delay would hurt Mahmoud Abbas' standing in the upcoming elections and weaken the position of Fatah members who are close to the leadership.

The attempt to interfere with internal Palestinian politics is not consistent with the position of the U.S. administration, which a few weeks ago pushed Prime Minister Ariel Sharon into backtracking on his threat to disrupt the elections in the territories if the PA allowed Hamas to take part. The U.S., which has placed democratization of the Middle East at the top of its priorities, will find it difficult to dictate to the Palestinians not to include Hamas in the government if its candidates receive widespread voter support and it is willing to lay down its arms.

The resolution by the U.S. Congress, which is couched in vague terms, is typical of its behavior in an election year (elections are in November 2006) in which its members need funding and political support from the pro-Israel AIPAC.

A decade ago, Congress and the Senate passed the resolution to require that the U.S. Embassy be moved to Jerusalem no later than May 31, 1999. However since that time, presidential orders have delayed the implementation of the decision, citing national security interests.