Republican U.S. senators introduced the first efforts to penalize the Palestinians and the United Nations after the body affirmed enhanced Palestinian status. The PLO, which was a non-member observer entity, submitted today a bid to become a non-member observer state. The UN accepted the bid.
The language proposed as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act would cut assistance to the Palestinians by 50 percent and U.S. fees to the United Nations by the same amount. It also would cut by 20 percent U.S. aid to any country that voted to approve the bid.
The amendment language, first reported on the Americans for Peace Now website, was introduced by Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wy.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and James Inhofe (R-Okla.). A separate amendment to the same bill introduced by Barrasso, Lee, Inhofe and Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), James Risch (R-Idaho), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) would cut off all funding. Now that the bid has gone through, the government will have to choose whether to act on the amendment.
U.S. law institutes total cuts to Palestinians and the United Nations in the case of full Palestinian U.N. membership, but has no provisions to penalize enhanced observer status.
Following the success of the Palestinian bid, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued the following statement:
“Abu Mazen, instead of condemning the Gaza rocket fire and negotiating with Israel for lasting peace, spent the past week congratulating Hamas for its efforts to murder Israeli civilians, while offering condolences for Hamas’s ‘martyrs.’ Now the UN’s vote to grant de facto UN recognition of a non-existent Palestinian state has pushed peace with Israel even further away,” she said. “It is regretful that so many nations supported this unilateral action by the PLO instead of endorsing a bilateral, two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.”
U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called today’s vote in the United Nations on the status of the Palestinian delegation a “distraction from efforts to reignite direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians.”
“While not unexpected, I am deeply disappointed by the vote in the United Nation’s General Assembly to change the Palestinian Authority’s status from ‘observer entity’ to ‘non-member observer state.’ This most recent political posturing by the Palestinian Authority is counterproductive. A permanent and peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including designation of a Palestinian State, can only be achieved through direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. I strongly encourage the Palestinians to move beyond such procrastination and return to the negotiating table so that the peace process can get back on track,” said Cardin.
“We are deeply disappointed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ decision to seek symbolic non-member observer status through the General Assembly of the United Nations. We have long believed the only way to achieve a two-state solution is through direct negotiations leading to a peace treaty fully accepted by both governments and both peoples, said House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a statement. “We are concerned that today’s unilateral action by President Abbas represents a repudiation of the Oslo Accords and a setback for the peace process. To be clear, non-member observer status puts the Palestinian people no closer to achieving statehood, and may in fact set back this goal by inflaming tensions and making already difficult negotiations even harder.”
The statement noted that the U.S. government’s request of Palestinian leaders is pretty straight forward: abandon terrorism, accept Israel’s right to exist and enter into good faith negotiations towards a two-state solution to the conflict.
“We call on all nations who support a just and lasting peace to urge President Abbas to abandon unilateral acts that undermine the peace process and to return to the negotiating table,” read Hoyer and Cantor’s statement.
Just last week, Senator Cardin and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) sent a letter to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas opposing any unilateral action by the Palestinian Government at the United Nations General Assembly. The senators previously had led the Senate in unanimous passage of a resolution (S. Res. 185) that reiterated U.S. opposition to any unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood. The resolution was cosponsored by 87 other senators and also opposed the inclusion of Hamas in any Palestinian unity government unless it is willing to accept peace with Israel and renounce violence.
Jewish organizations are likewise speaking out against the UN’s decision.
“The Jewish Federations of North America expresses its deep dismay at the UN General Assembly vote today awarding the Palestinian Authority (PA) with non-member observer status, which will only undermine efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East,” said Michael Siegal, chair of the board of trustees of Jewish Federations of North America. “By taking unilateral steps at the UN today, the PA broke with the historic Oslo Accords reached with Israel in 1994, and instead bypassed obligatory negotiations on core issues in favor of a symbolic political gesture. Jewish Federations call on the PA to heed requests by Israel and the United States to return to the negotiating table with Israel and work toward a two-state solution that guarantees safe and defensible borders for Israel and a viable Palestinian state.”