WASHINGTON, December 4 (By Carl Schreck for RIA Novosti) - In the wake of the United Nations’ overwhelming decision to upgrade Palestine to a nonmember observer state, US lawmakers are warning that the United States could retaliate by halting nearly $1 billion in aid to the Palestinian Authority.
Three different bills have been submitted as amendments to a defense spending bill—which is being debated by the US Senate this week—that would result in hundreds of millions of dollars in American aid to Palestinians being withheld following Thursday’s UN vote.
The bills threaten $495 million in US aid in fiscal year 2012 that has been frozen, as well as some $440 million requested by the White House for fiscal year 2013.
The lawmakers pushing the legislation say the Palestinian Authority should be punished for “undermining” the Israeli-Palestinian peace process by pursuing UN recognition.
Some Middle East experts, however, say the bills could undermine the United States’ own interests in the region.
The measures could jeopardize the future of the Palestinian Authority, which already has severe financial problems, and could “ultimately lead to its collapse,” said Khaled Elgindy, who has served as an adviser to Palestinian negotiators over the past decade.
“This would be counterproductive to say the least in terms of trying to achieve a two-state solution” between Israel and the Palestinians, Elgindy, a fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy in Washington, told RIA Novosti on Monday.
The three pieces of legislation include a bipartisan bill filed last week that would cut US aid for the Palestinian Authority should the International Criminal Court (ICC) adjudicate any cases it brings before the court.
With its new UN status, the Palestinian Authority could move to join the ICC, igniting speculation that it could bring cases against Israel in the court.
“We will not use American taxpayer dollars to support a Palestinian entity whose primary goal, if they file a complaint in the ICC, is to marginalize the Jewish state rather than live in peace with the people of Israel,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from the state of South Carolina and a co-sponsor of the bill, said in a statement last week.
A second bill submitted by Republican senators would slash US aid to the Palestinian Authority by 50 percent following the change in its UN status, as well as cut by 20 percent any US aid to countries that voted to upgrade Palestine to a nonmember observer state on Thursday.
The change was approved by a 138-9 vote at the UN General Assembly, with 41 abstentions. Countries voting in favor included US allies France and Spain.
Another bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch from the state of Utah would cut US funding for the UN itself as retaliation for the vote.
“If the UN wants to give more power to Palestine and weaken the chances of a two-party peace deal, then the Obama administration needs to stand up for Israel, our close friend and ally,” Hatch said in a statement following Thursday’s vote. “This is the type of action we’ve come to expect from the UN, so it’s entirely appropriate to cut off funding.”
Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon official and former editor of Middle East Quarterly, told RIA Novosti on Monday that the push for partial UN recognition was tantamount to “an end-run around a negotiated settlement” by the Palestinian Authority, and therefore a rejection of the “commitments” upon which US aid was based.
“American foreign aid should never be an entitlement,” said Rubin, a resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute in Washington.
A spokesman for the Washington mission of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) declined to comment on the legislative initiatives when contacted by RIA Novosti on Monday.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters on Friday that while the United States opposed the UN vote, it is not planning any immediate reaction.
US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said there was nothing in existing US law that would trigger a legal consequence for the upgrade of the Palestinian Authority’s status, and that questions of a political reaction were something for the US Congress to handle.
“And as we have said for some time, we still have some $495 million in Fiscal Year 2012 funds that we’re trying to encourage the Congress to release for the Palestinians,” Nuland told a news briefing Friday.
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- Panthera Pardusfinally masks are dropped.. at least11:35, 04/12/2012"The lawmakers pushing the legislation say the Palestinian Authority should be punished for “undermining” the Israeli-Palestinian peace process by pursuing UN recognition"
has anyone seen any progress in such Peace Progress other than
- more Palestinian killed
- more illegal settlements build
Incidentally Israel has Nuclear Weapons but strangely is not under embargo like Iran, which does not have any...
the collapse of American influence in the region will be the greatest legacy of the Nobel Price for Peace who orders every Wednesday killing by drones
Iran has been a central Russian ally in the Middle East, despite considerable tensions between the two. But by renewing dialogue with the West, the new Iranian leadership has chosen another direction. The shifting terrain in the region creates new strategic, political and economic challenges for Russia.