US Senator Rand Paul (R-KY).
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Just days after Israel responded to the Palestinian Authority’s bid to join the International Criminal Court by freezing the transfer of tax funds to the PA, US Sen. Rand Paul introduced a bill into the Senate that would cut US funding to Ramallah until it withdraws its request.
The bill introduced this week by Paul, a Kentucky Republican likely to run for president in 2016, would close a loophole in legislation rushed through last month at the tail end of the previous congressional session. That legislation, packed into an omnibus spending bill, suspended aid to the Palestinians only after the launch of any investigation targeting Israelis.
The United States provides approximately $500 million in annual assistance to the PA.
The State Department characterized Israel’s freeze of the Palestinian funds as “entirely counterproductive” and said the US was “deeply troubled” by the move.
The Obama administration is reluctant to strip funding from the PA, seeing it as a bulwark against Hamas.
Jen Psaki, a State Department spokeswoman, said the administration is studying Paul’s bill. She also said earlier this week that the United States does not believe the Palestinians are eligible to join the ICC.
“The United States does not believe that the state of Palestine qualifies as a sovereign state and does not recognize it as such and does not believe that it is eligible to accede to the Rome Statute,” she said, referring to the 1998 treaty that led to the court’s founding in 2002.
The American legal opinion in this case, however, would not carry much weight as the United States, like Israel, did not join the Rome Statute.
Israeli government officials, careful about not wanting to be seen as interfering in the US legislative process, declined to say whether Jerusalem supports Paul’s bill or not.
However, one official said that it is “clear there are people in the international community who understand how counterproductive the Palestinian moves are, and who are interested in holding them accountable.”