WASHINGTON – None of the amendments penalizing the Palestinians for last week’s
UN bid were included in the Senate defense bill passed Monday
Three separate amendments had been filed, with penalties ranging
from shuttering the PLO’s DC office to cutting US aid to the Palestinians and
reducing assistance to the UN, but none were voted on as the Senate wrapped up
deliberations on the defense authorization bill.
Opponents of the
amendments see the omission as a major victory.
“We’re delighted that the
Senate chose not to include [them],” said Dylan Williams, director of government
affairs for J Street. “We believe any of the proposals to punish the
Palestinians would severely damage the prospects of negotiations toward a
J Street, which circulated a letter opposing the
amendments, prompted nearly 15,000 emails to members of Congress against the
action and nearly 1,000 phone calls.
The American Israel Public Affairs
Committee sent out a statement as the amendments were being considered saying
that “Congress has frequently warned the PLO that there would be consequences
for its relationship with the United States” to unilateral action at the
“AIPAC applauds this congressional leadership and urges a full review
of America’s relations with the PLO, including closure of the PLO’s office in
Washington,” the statement read.
One of the amendments, proposed by
senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), Charles
Schumer (D-New York) and Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey) and considered the most
likely to be adopted, would close the PLO mission if the Palestinians didn’t
conduct meaningful negotiations with Israel and would cut aid to the Palestinian
Authority if it pressed a case against Israel at the International Criminal
AIPAC wouldn’t comment for this story.
But several other
supporters of the amendments are playing down the fact that the they weren’t
included in Monday’s bill.
One Senate aide chalked the result up to being
merely a product of “Senate procedure,” as the body tried to cope with an
onslaught of amendments to the defense bill, seen as one of the pieces of
legislation most likely to reach the president’s desk in the near
A pro-Israel Capitol Hill source said there was enough opposition
to rule out “unanimous consent” passage of the amendments – which was being used
to speedily approve some of the many other amendments – but that the opposition
wasn’t significant enough to end hopes of the amendment passing as part of a
“No one should read anything into the failure of the
amendments to be adopted in terms of the Senate’s attitude towards the
Palestinian action at the UN,” he said.
But Dylan argued that the “level
of discomfort” by those who didn’t back it among the senior Senate leadership
was clearly at a significant level since the amendment didn’t
Still, advocates said they would press ahead.
Graham will continue to explore opportunities for passing the legislation,” said
Graham spokesman Kevin Bishop.
Similar actions against the Palestinians
could also be proposed in the US House of Representatives, which might try to
add it to the defense bill when the two houses negotiate over the language or on
“We have no doubt that this fight is not over,”
Williams said. “We will be fighting aggressively should it come up again.”