U.S. lawmaker: Palestinians must return to peace talks or suffer possible divestment
U.S. State Department waits for Palestinians' 'official response' to Quartet proposal; U.S. Congress members suggest reevaluation of U.S. financial assistance to Palestinian Authority.
A U.S. Congressmen said Monday that the Palestinians should think twice about their bid to gain recognition at the United Nations,urging the Palestinian Authority to "reverse course" and get back to the negotiation table.
Speaking at a gathering of Congressmen and leaders of Jewish organizations outside the United Nations headquarters in New York, Rep. Gary Ackerman, member of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, stressed that "There may need to be a total cutoff of all aid to the Palestinians for pursuing this course of action which is very dangerous and ill advised."
"If they’re willing to consider putting their future in the hands of the United Nations, perhaps they should think about how much aid their friends at the United Nations will provide to accompany whatever meaningless, one-sided UN resolution they might pass," said Ackerman.
"They should think twice, reverse course and get back to the negotiating table where Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu awaits them,” he concluded.
Congresswoman Nita Lowey called Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' actions a counter-productive publicity stunt, saying he is not interested in peace. "They [the Palestinians] have not been forced into this position, and the circumstances are not beyond their control. They have chosen to discontinue negotiations with Israel and pursue a counter-productive publicity stunt." she said.
"Abu Mazen’s [Abbas] speech made clear he’s not interested in peace. Peacemakers are not obstinate, cynical, incendiary, and inflammatory. Peacemakers take constructive – not destructive – actions toward the goal of peace."
Lowey suggested Abbas' actions warrant a strong U.S. response. "His action cross a line and should lead to a reevaluation of U.S. assistance for the Palestinian Authority," she said.
U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said the U.S. Administration is still waiting for the Palestinians' "official response", despite comments made by members of the Palestinian delegation that suggest the Quartet's proposal does not meet their demands.
In a statement on Friday, the Quartet - the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia - said it wanted to see comprehensive proposals within three months on territory and security, and substantial progress within six months, with a goal of a deal by the end of 2012.
The statement followed a day of high-stakes diplomacy over the Middle East which saw Abbas submit a formal application to the UN Security Council for recognition of a Palestinian state.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki rejected on Saturday the Quartet's proposal to renew peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Speaking to a Palestinian radio station, al-Malki said that the Quartet's proposal does not call for a settlement freeze and an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 lines, and therefore isn't sufficient.
Other U.S. Congressmen expressed disappointment with the Palestinian president. Bob Turner, who won the recent special elections for the Congress at NY-9 district, said that the Palestinian Authority "continues to pay - with U.S. dollars - terrorists in Israeli prisons convicted of murdering Israeli civilians, and it has done nothing to stop the incessant shelling of Israeli towns. If the United Nations truly wants to stand up against terrorism, it has a moral obligation to deny this request.”