Ranking Senator: US Congress may suspend funds to UN if it 'takes over' peace process

Lindsey Graham says Congress will also ensure sanctions on Iran can be imposed at 'drop of hat'; Netanyahu ridicules Erekat's comparison of Israel with the Islamic State.

December 27, 2014 21:44

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's meeting with US Senator Lindsey Graham

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's meeting with US Senator Lindsey Graham

There will be a “violent backlash” by Congress against the UN, including suspended funding, if it tries to “take over the peace process,” visiting US Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) said Saturday night alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

Graham, a staunchly pro- Israel senator whose name has been bandied about as a possible 2016 presidential contender, said there would be a violent pushback in the new Republican-controlled Congress “if there’s any effort by the UN Security Council to set the terms of peace negotiations, avoiding direct talks. President [Barack] Obama in 2011 said the United Nations was not the right venue when it came to discussing the peace process in reaching a two-state solution. I agree with what President Obama said in 2011.”

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Graham is expected to take over as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, which deals with funding issues.

Graham, who is also expected to continue as a member of the powerful Armed Services Committee, said, “Any effort by the French, the Jordanians or anyone to avoid direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians over the peace process, anyone who tries to take this to the UN Security Council, there will be a violent backlash by Congress that could include suspending funding to the United Nations.” Congress, he said, “will not sit back and allow the United Nations to take over the peace process.”

His words came a day after lead PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat said in an al-Arabiya interview that the Palestinians would bring their proposal for a full IDF withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines by 2017, to a vote in the Security Council by Monday.

In that interview, Erekat also likened Israel to Islamic State, and Netanyahu to the Islamic State leader. Erekat said the war against Islamic State was a just war, then he added that just as Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi “considers himself the leader of the ‘Islamic State,’ Benjamin Netanyahu heads the ‘Jewish State.’” “There is no difference between the crime of laying an American or Western journalist on the ground and beheading him, and between a criminal who lays Muhammad Abu Khdeir on the ground and burns him alive,” he said in reference to the murder of the east Jerusalem youth this summer, which was condemned wall-to-wall by Israeli political leaders, with Netanyahu calling the teen’s father to offer his condolences.

Netanyahu, at the outset of his meeting with Graham, said Israel was faced with two “great challenges.”

The first, he said, “comes from the Palestinians. The chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, has compared Israel to ISIS [Islamic State].

This is the same Palestinian Authority that joins hands with Hamas, incites constantly against Israel, the kind of incitement that has led to an attack that we witnessed just two days ago of a Molotov cocktail thrown at a little girl, and I commend our security forces for apprehending the terrorists. But the same Palestinian Authority is going to try to bring to the UN Security Council a resolution that seeks to impose on us conditions that will undermine our security. And I want to assure you that we will stand firmly and reject such a dictate. We always have; we always will.”

Graham assured Netanyahu that while the international community “seems to be a bit confused,” Congress “clearly sees the difference between the tactics of Hamas and the democracy called Israel.”

The other great challenge facing Israel, Netanyahu said, comes from Iran, which he noted on Saturday carried out a military drill on Saturday with a “suicide drone” near the Strait of Hormuz.

Netanyahu told Graham, who has hammered Obama over the last number of years over foreign policy issues ranging from the attack on the US embassy in Benghazi to Washington’s policy on Iran; “I don’t have to convince you, Senator, that the most important task before us is to prevent this dangerous regime from having nuclear weapons. And I believe that what is required are more sanctions, and stronger sanctions. And I welcome your leadership in this effort. I think this is something that is important for the peace of the world. You know, there are moments in history when nations have to stand firm. Israel stands firm on both sides, and on both issues.”

The Obama administration is opposed to tightening sanctions against Iran at this time, following November’s extension of the negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear program.

Graham said that while he would “love nothing more than a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear ambitions” and supported the administration’s efforts to bring about a peaceful solution to the issue, “sanctions are what got Iran to the table, and it will be the only thing that brings them to a deal that we can all live with.”

Graham said that in January, when the new Congress takes office, there will be a vote on the bipartisan Kirk-Menendez bill, which says if Iran walks away from the table, sanctions will be reimposed, and if Iran cheats regarding any deal, sanctions will be reimposed.

“It is important to let the Iranians know that from an American point of view, sanctions are alive and well.”

He also said that further legislation will be put forward mandating that if there is a deal between the world powers and Iran, it will have to come to Congress for its approval before sanctions can be permanently lifted.

“You will see a very vigorous Congress, when it comes to Iran,” Graham said. “You will see a Congress making sure sanctions are real and will be reimposed at the drop of a hat. You will see Congress wanting to have a say about any final deal.”

In addition to meeting Graham, Netanyahu is scheduled later this week to meet with another politician whose name has been raised as a possible 2016 Republican presidential candidate: Indiana Governor Mike Pence, who is currently touring the country.

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