Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

US Congress standing up to Palestinian UN bid

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Haaretz has reported on a new bill being introduced into US Congress which would see US funding for the UN substantially reduced if the Palestinian UN statehood bid wins the upcoming vote.

A republican congresswoman introduced a bill on Tuesday, along with 57 co-sponsors, asking Congress to block U.S. funds for any United Nations entity that supports giving Palestine an elevated status at the UN.

The head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is also seeking to ban U.S. contributions to the UN Human Rights Council and an anti-racism conference seen as a platform for anti-Israel rhetoric... Ros-Lehtinen wrote that a Palestinian self-declared state "would short-circuit the negotiating process, and would severely undermine opportunities for peace between Israel and the Palestinians".

Ros-Lehtinen cited a historical precedent for the bill, when Yasser Arafat's PLO pushed for membership for a "Palestinian state" in UN entities in 1989. At the time, the George H.W. Bush Administration "made clear that the U.S. would cut off funding to any UN entity that upgraded the status of the Palestinian observer mission in any way. The UN was forced to choose between isolating Israel and receiving U.S. contributions, and they chose the latter.

The PLO's unilateral campaign was stopped in its tracks," she wrote.

Ros-Lehtinen's full op/ed explaining her bill can be read here.

However, the bill has received a cool reception from the State department, which has essentially committed to voting against the bid, but does not believe that sanctioning the UN is an effective policy decision.

..The State Department slammed the bill on Tuesday and spokeswoman Victoria Nuland issued a statement saying that the Obama Administration opposes the legislation proposed by Ros-Lehtinen.

"Cutting by half U.S. funding to the UN would seriously undermine our international standing and dangerously weaken the UN as an instrument to advance U.S. national security goals", she said, adding that the timing of the proposal comes at a particularly dangerous time, with the UN working to advance many U.S. international interests.

Nuland added that the "United States has led a process to revitalize the UN, make it quicker, make it stronger, make it more flexible to support U.S. vital interests."

Meanwhile, Republican Representative Allen West has lashed-out at the Palestinian authority after a recent trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories, where he met with PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad. West not only unequivocally opposes the statehood bid, but argues that, by his estimate, the PA have demonstrated they are not committed to peace due to their failure to condemn terror and recognise the "modern day state of Israel".

PALM BEACH GARDENS - After spending eight days in Israel, U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Plantation, told a town hall audience today he's convinced the Palestinian Authority is not a "credible" peace partner in the Middle East and the United Nations should not unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state.
... He said the 24-member congressional delegation he was part of on the Israel trip met with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
"Is the Palestinian Authority a credible peace partner?" Coming away from listening to (Fayyad) and his 30- to 35-minute speech, I don't believe so," West said.

West faulted the Palestinian Authority for not condemning recent attacks that killed eight Israelis near the town of Eilat. He also said he doubts Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party have a real relationship with rival Hamas despite a recent reconciliation agreement between the groups.

"We've got to have people that will recognize the existence of the modern day state of Israel. We have to have people who will denounce terrorists and terrorist actions," West said.

West also called on the United States to vote against an expected U.N. resolution to recognize a Palestinian state and said if the measure passes the U.S. should use its veto authority in the U.N. Security Council to block it.

The statehood bid is coming under increasing pressure in the Western democratic world, however Australia has yet to commit to opposing it. Failing to take a stand against a policy that rejects negotiation and attempts to grant Palestinian demands without eliciting any concessions in return - including basic recognition and peace - would be a blow to Australia's proud commitment to a genuine and lasting two-state resolution.

Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz