The United States Senate has passed a resolution threatening to suspend financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority if its leaders "persist in efforts to circumvent direct negotiations by turning to the United Nations or other international bodies,” and called on U.S. President Barack Obama to veto a UN vote on unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state.
“Palestinian efforts to gain recognition of a state outside direct negotiations demonstrates absence of a good faith commitment to peace negotiations, and will have implications for continued United States aid,” the resolution declares.
Senator Ben Cardin, who initiated the resolution along with Senator Susan Collins, said after the vote late Tuesday that “The Senate has delivered a clear message to the international community that United Nations recognition of a Palestinian state at this time does not further the peace process.”
Resolution 185, co-sponsored by 87 Senator, states the two-state solution as the official U.S. policy for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and also calls for a review of the reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.
It also calls for the Palestinian unity government to “publicly and formally forswear terrorism, accept Israel's right to exist, and reaffirm previous agreements made with the Government of Israel.”
The Senate also called on Obama to announce that the U.S. will veto any resolution on Palestinian statehood that comes before the UN Security Council which is not a result of a peace agreement – and asked him to “lead a diplomatic effort to oppose a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state and to oppose recognition of a Palestinian state by other nations.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in a statement following the resolution passage “the United States of America will not give money to terrorists bent on the destruction of the State of Israel. America’s willingness to continue our current aid program will depend on the Palestinian government’s insistence that Hamas recognize Israel’s right to exist, that it renounce violence and that it honor the commitments made by prior Palestinian Authority governments.”
AIPAC, which lobbied for the passage of the resolution, welcomed the vote's result.
Critics of the measure stressed that by cutting financial aid, the U.S. might lose leverage over the Palestinians and might invite other, less constructive players, into the game, as they have already lost faith in the U.S. as an impartial mediator.
Aaron David Miller, former negotiator and current public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center, told Haaretz that “this resolution neither hurts nor helps the current muddle that we call the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. It certainly isn't going to discourage the Palestinians from going ahead in September at the UN; and unity with Hamas - always a long shot - may well collapse on its own."
“Congress has very little capacity to influence the views of Palestinians, only Israelis and the Americans can do that. And neither has yet developed a strategy to preempt the UN initiative, though efforts are underway to do so,” Miller added.
The PLO General Delegation to the U.S. said in response that while it respects the right of Senate members to pass resolutions expressing their views, "we urge them to use an even-handed, fair, and unbiased approach when addressing their concerns on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process."
The delegation added that "the Israeli government has failed to reciprocate, and Prime Minister Netanyahu has repeatedly chosen a policy of land grabbing and settlement expansion over a just solution to the conflict and an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip."
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