US Senators move to cut PA aid should UN bid succeed

Ahead of UNGA vote on Palestinian statehood, Senators file amendments to cut aid to PA, UN, impose penalties should move succeed.

Abbas R 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Abbas R 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
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 Jersey).
“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 parties themselves.”
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 change.
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 reached.
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 irresponsibility.”
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 devastating.”
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.