In response to the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s successful bid to become a nonmember observer state at the United Nations, members of the United States Senate have proposed three retaliatory amendments to the National Defense Appropriations Act (S. 3254).
Amendment No. 3139 (read full amendment here), introduced by Senator Barraso (R-WY), and co-sponsored by Senators Inhofe (R-OK) and Lee (UT), mandates reductions in financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority, the United Nations and any country that votes in favor of a change in the status of the Palestinian delegation. Specifically, the amendment calls for a 50% reduction in aid provided to the Palestinian Authority, a 50% reduction in appropriations to any United Nations entity that grants Palestinians a changed status and a 20% reduction in assistance to any country that votes in favor of a change in status of the Palestinians. The latter cut is subject to a presidential waiver, allowing the President to exempt a state from cuts should cuts pose a national security threat.
Amendment No. 3171 (read full amendment here) was introduced by Senator Hatch (R-UT) and co-sponsored by Senators Roberts (R-KS), Chambliss (R-GA), Barrasso (R-WY), Inhofe (R-OK), Wicker (R-MS), Lee (R-UT), Coburn (R-OK), Risch (R-ID) and Rubio (R-FL). The amendment would prevent any funding to the United Nations in response to any change in the status of the Palestinians from an observer entity approved by either the Security Council or the General Assembly. The amendment provides that the funding would not be subject to such a provision should the Secretary of State certify to Congress that a comprehensive peace agreement has been accepted by Israel and the Palestinians.
Amendment No. 3203 (read full amendment here), introduced by Senator Graham (R-SC), has been co-sponsored by Senators Schumer (D-NY), Barrasso (R-WY) and Menendez (D-NJ). The amendment would strip assistance to the Palestinian Authority should it bring any matter to the International Criminal Court. Additionally, the amendment would force the closure of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s U.S. offices until the Palestinians enter direct negotiations with Israel.
Israeli Position on the Aid Cuts
Senator Barrasso, who introduced or co-sponsored each of the amendments, explained, “a comprehensive and lasting peace between these parties can only come to pass through direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The international community should be united in pushing both sides to the negotiating table, not rewarding one of them for violating previous agreements.”
The Israeli government has not issued a formal statement regarding the amendments. Last year, when a similar effort was made by the Palestinians to alter their status at the UN, it was opposed by Israel and ultimately vetoed in the Security Council by the U.S. At the time, Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, issued a statement opposing a cut in aid to the PA. Former Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh suggests that retaliatory measures such as those proposed in the amendments are “idiotic.” Sneh explained that “The West Bank is now almost totally quiet” and that, “to a great extent, that is because of the cooperation between [Israeli] security forces and the Palestinian security forces. If the Palestinian security force collapses because Congress cuts their pay, Israel will suffer. The Israel Defense Forces will be a larger presence in the West Bank, there will be more friction with the Palestinians and more casualties for Israel to deal with.”
As the amendments are debated, we at RACblog will continue to follow the responses from the United States, Canada, and Israel.
Image courtesy of United Nations Webcast: webtv.un.org