This vote was on an amendment by Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., that would require the State Department to certify that funds it makes available for reconstruction efforts in Israel’s embattled Gaza Strip would not be diverted to Hamas or any organizations controlled by Hamas. The amendment was offered to the bill that funds most domestic agencies in fiscal 2009.
Kyl said his amendment was spurred by a recent trip Hillary Clinton took to Egypt, where as part of the Sharm el-Sheikh Donors Conference she pledged $300 million in U.S. aid to help rebuild Gaza, which has been decimated by rocket and mortar attacks. Kyl said he wants to ensure that none of that money goes to fund Hamas, a Palestinian group that many consider a terrorist group. What Kyl’s amendment would do, in effect, is also prevent many non-governmental organizations, through which this money would be funneled, from receiving any of the money to distribute in Gaza.
One of the organizations the money would be funneled through is the Bank of Syria; in the past, the Syrian government has been suspected of using its national bank to fund the activities of suspected terrorist groups, including Hamas and Hezbollah.
“The problem is, some of this money goes through the United Nations and through nongovernmental organizations—the so-called NGOs. So what my amendment does is to close this loophole to ensure that none of our money goes to them and then Hamas as well,” Kyl said.
Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said Kyl’s amendment is laudable, but unnecessary.
“We all want to be sure no funds are diverted to Hamas. But, of course, that is already in the bill. I don’t know how many times we have to vote on it. There is also permanent law in this country that prohibits any funds going to Hamas or entities controlled by Hamas. So the amendment is unnecessary—unless the intent of the amendment is simply to send the bill back to the other body and further delay its passage,” Leahy said. “Maybe every one of us should introduce our own amendment to say the same thing over and over again and have 100 of us saying we don’t want any money to go to Hamas.”
By a vote of 39-56, the amendment was rejected. All but five Republicans present voted for the amendment. All but five Democrats present voted against the amendment. The end result is that the bill went forward without language that would have prevented $300 million in Gaza aid money from being distributed unless the government certifies that none of it would benefit Hamas.