State Dept.: Risks in cutting Palestinian funding

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Cutting off assistance to the Palestinian Authority and to the Lebanese government would create a void that radical forces could fill, a top Obama administration official said.

Andrew Shapiro, the assistant secretary for political military affairs at the State Department, said Nov. 4 that the Obama administration was “working with Capitol Hill” to prevent aid cuts to the Palestinians.

Democrats and Republicans alike in Congress have said that such cuts are all but inevitable now that the Palestinians have sought statehood recognition at the United Nations in the absence of negotiations.

Some lawmakers also are seeking cuts in assistance to Lebanon because of Hezbollah’s participation in its government.

“We must ask ourselves — if we are no longer a partner, who will fill the void?” Shapiro said in his talk at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “We must think about the other potential partners that could fill the space we leave behind — and that should give us pause.”

Shapiro outlined how the Obama administration was working to preserve Israel’s qualitative military edge in the region through joint military exercises, technology sharing and $3 billion in annual security assistance despite budget pressures. — jta