The House Appropriations Committee moved to cut off U.S. funding for the Palestinian Authority, totaling about $500 million a year, if it continues to seek United Nations recognition of a Palestinian state.
Language in the draft committee report on State and Foreign Operations Appropriations for FY2012 includes a provision “prohibiting assistance to the Palestinian Authority until the Secretary of State certifies that [the PA] is not attempting to seek recognition at the United Nations of a Palestinian state outside of an agreement negotiated with Israel.”
Defying the wishes of the Obama administration, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas presented a bid for statehood at the United Nations last Friday, insisting that the time for independence -- which he called a “Palestinian Spring” -- has arrived.
The U.S. and Israel insist that a settlement can only be reached through direct talks, in order to resolve the key issues that have been obstacles to an agreement in the past. Even if the Palestinian Authority gets U.N. recognition, there is still no agreement with the Israelis determining the borders of a future Palestinian state, security arrangements, control of Jerusalem, and the right of return for Palestinian refugees. Abbas asked the international body to recognize the state of Palestine on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
The House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations already passed a bill this summer to cut off funding in retaliation for Palestinians' moves to seek recognition at the U.N. This sentiment is now included in the draft legislation for the full committee, which has not yet scheduled a markup of the bill.
The Obama administration, which has for months insisted that a hasty end to aid for the Palestinian Authority would work against U.S. security interests in the region, is continuing to consult with members of Congress on this issue.
“Beyond that, we’ll just have to wait and see,” a State Department official who was not authorized to speak on the record told National Journal.
The bid for statehood submitted to the U.N. secretary general was forwarded to the Security Council, where the U.S. has already promised to veto the measure. This process can take weeks, or months, before it comes to a vote. In the meantime, diplomacy continues. The Quartet -- made up of the European Union, Russia, the United Nations, and the U.S. -- has called on both sides to resume the long-stalled peace talks within a month.
Even though the U.S. does not consider the Palestinians’ course of action at the United Nations to be helpful to jumpstarting direct negotiations, “we definitely still continue to see value in providing assistance to the Palestinian Authority,” the State official said.
“We remain committed to maintaining and building on the gains in security for Palestinians and Israelis and to continuing to build the foundation for a sustainable Palestinian state that results from negotiations,” the official said. “We think our assistance to the Palestinians is an essential part of the U.S. commitment to the two-state solution for the Palestinians and Israelis as part of a comprehensive peace in the Middle East.”
For that matter, the U.S. also considers Israel’s recent actions counterproductive to the peace process. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told reporters on Tuesday that Israel’s decision that day to approve construction of 1,100 homes in southeast Jerusalem was “counter-productive to our efforts to resume direct negotiations between the parties.”
The Palestinians say they cannot resume negotiations with Israel unless construction stops in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The homes are planned for the settlement of Gilo, which Israel maintains is a neighborhood of Jerusalem. Israel’s move was roundly criticized by U.S., U.N., and E.U. officials, who said it ran counter to the Quartet’s request that both sides avoid “provocative actions.”