Israel to Ask U.S. Congressmen to Halt Aid to Palestinians

Recently passed American legislation states that if the Palestinians initiate any action against Israel at the ICC, the State Department would have to stop American aid to the PA, which comes to some $400 million annually.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas checks his watch before a speech in the West Bank city of Ramallah on January 4, 2015. AFP

After freezing the transfer of tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority, Israel is taking additional steps to punish the PA’s for its request to join the International Criminal Court at The Hague.

A senior Israeli official said on Sunday Jerusalem would be contacting pro-Israel members of the U.S. Congress to ensure the enforcement of legislation stipulating that if the Palestinians initiate any action against Israel at the ICC, the State Department would have to stop American aid to the PA, which comes to some $400 million annually. The stop-gap funding bill was passed in Congress last month.

Both houses of the new Congress to be seated later this month will be controlled by the Republican Party, with many key positions filled by senators and representatives who are pro-Israel and anti-Palestinian. The law regarding the Palestinians initiating action at the ICC is strongly worded and states that President Barack Obama cannot waive a decision to halt aid to the PA.

The U.S. administration is concerned about the ramifications of halting the financial assistance, which is liable to make it impossible for the PA to pay the salaries of tens of thousands of employees. Although Arab states have promised to provide the PA with a financial security net, the Americans believe that, as in the past, the Arab states won’t cough up the money they promised and won’t work to keep the PA afloat.

Earlier Sunday, Foreign Ministry Director-General Nissim Ben Sheetrit said that Israel’s response to the Palestinian bid at the ICC would be much harsher and more comprehensive than freezing the PA’s tax revenues. Ben Sheetrit made the remarks at a conference held in Jerusalem for Israel’s envoys to Europe.

“Israel is about to switch from defense to attack mode,” he said.

Sheetrit said, however, that unlike in the past, Israel will not launch a wave of settlement construction in response to the Palestinian moves. He also added Israel had no interest in undermining security cooperation with the PA or to cause its collapse.

The security cabinet is expected to meet later in the week to decide on the new measures.  

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday that “The Palestinian Authority has chosen to launch a confrontation with Israel,” adding that Israel would not sit idly by but would respond.

“We won’t let them drag Israel Defense Forces soldiers and officers to The Hague,” said Netanyahu. “The ones who must give an accounting are the heads of the Palestinian Authority, who formed an alliance with the Hamas war criminals.”