WASHINGTON – Ahead of the UN General Assembly vote on Thursday to grant
non-member observer status to the Palestinians, US senators on both sides of the
aisle filed amendments that would cut aid to the Palestinian Authority and the
United Nations, should the effort succeed.
The amendments, which would be
attached to the defense authorization bill currently being debated in the
Senate, would cut funding to the PA and the UN and impose other penalties for
granting non-member status to the Palestinians.
A bipartisan amendment
would deny the PA US aid should it bring a case before the International
Criminal Court, as well as immediately close the Washington office of the PLO,
the body representing the Palestinians in the US, unless the Palestinians have
entered “meaningful negotiations” with Israel.
“Granting United Nations
membership to the Palestinian Authority is a nightmare in the making for the
peace process and future relations between the Congress and UN,” said Sen.
Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), who filed the amendment along with John
Barrasso (R-Wyoming), Chuck Schumer (D-New York) and Robert Menendez (D-New
“Granting a form of member status to the Palestinians goes
around the only viable way to negotiate a two-state solution, that’s between the
Two further amendments drafted by Republicans alone
would cut Palestinian and UN aid more swiftly.
One amendment calls for a
50 percent reduction in aid to the PA for seeking to change its status at the
UN, as well as a 50% cut for UN entities that recognize any status change for
the Palestinians and a 20% cut in aid to countries that vote in favor of the
The second calls for all funds to the UN to be cut, should it
approve a changed status for the Palestinians, until the US secretary of state
certifies that a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian peace has been
Also ahead of the UN vote on Thursday, the House Foreign Affairs
Committee held a hearing on Israel’s right to defend itself, and both the chair
and ranking member of the committee used the opportunity to condemn the
Palestinian UN bid.
“What will the day after the vote look like?” asked
committee chairwoman Ileana Ros- Lehtinen (R-Florida), who consulted with
Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren over the matter on Wednesday. “There must be
consequences for Ramallah’s rejectionism and continued
Democratic Rep. Howard Berman, the committee’s ranking
member, referred to the Palestinians’ “profoundly regrettable effort to achieve
statehood recognition through a UN vote rather than through direct negotiations
with its neighbor Israel.”
He warned that should the Palestinians take
advantage of a UN victory Thursday to “internationalize their claims” by taking
cases to international courts and not returning to the negotiating table, “I
have no doubt that the impact on US-Palestinian relations will be
However, a few members of Congress have taken a different
position on the Palestinian move.
“This vote should be seen as an
opportunity, not an obstacle, for peace between Israel and the Palestinians,”
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota) said in a statement, which suggested the
US use this moment to restart negotiations for a two-state solution and
encourage Palestinian moderates.
“It would be a mistake for the United
States to punish the Palestinian Authority. Punitive measures against the
Palestinian Authority will strengthen extremists and diminish US influence in
the region,” he said.