U.S. bill aims to cut funds to pro-Palestinian UN groups
U.S. State Department spokesperson slams bill, saying cutting U.S. funding would 'undermine U.S. international standing and dangerously weaken the UN as an instrument to advance U.S. national security goals'.
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 has long been a critic of the United Nations. The legislation she introduced Tuesday would also withhold a portion of U.S. dues to the international body if it does not change its funding system so that dues are paid on a voluntary rather than assessed basis.
She says the UN continues to be plagued by scandal, mismanagement and inaction.
In a letter to her colleagues explaining the purpose of the "United Nations Transparency,
Accountability and Reform Act", 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.
The congresswoman went on to allege that Arafat’s successors are “up to the same tricks today”, and she called on the U.S. to respond strongly. “Please join me in supporting the United Nations Transparency, Accountability, and Reform Act, which, among other provisions, will cut off U.S. contributions to any UN entity that grants membership or any other upgraded status to the Palestinian leadership", she concluded.
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.”
She continued, saying that the U.S. believes in UN reform. However, “we just don't think that this is the right way to go about it. Rather, we would like to work within the UN system and we will continue to try to do so on UN reform. We have had an ongoing dialogue with the Congress on these issues.”
Nuland denied allegations made by Palestinian officials that a U.S. diplomat threatened that aid would be cut off following the UN vote, that is expected to recognize the Palestinian state by the large majority.
"We're not in the business of making threats", Nuland said. "What we have said is that members of the Congress are as concerned as the Administration is about the path that the Palestinian Authority is on, and the Palestinians need to think hard about whether there might be consequences to that".
U.S. President Barack Obama wrote in a memorandum to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that “it is important to the national security interests of the United States” to waive Ros-Lehtinen’s proposal, thereby ensuring that the Palestinian Authority continue to receive funding.
MK Dr. Einat Wilf, who is visiting Washington told "Haaretz" that the bill "is not something that we in Israel asked for - there are enough people in the Congress that will be happy to see the funding to the UN cut. But there should be rethinking on how the UN operates and be more suitable for the 21st century world.”
Wilf called on the UN to move from “ just majoritarian politics to more constitutional politics where there are rules.” She claimed that Israel is repeatedly singled out, accusing the UN Human Rights Council of becoming “ a shameful body in this context".
Wilf added that the UN vote in September is not about the establishment of a Palestinian state, but rather about "seeking the legal basis from which to attack Israel in international bodies.”
She called the Palestinian bid to the UN “a non-violent strategy with very violent purposes,” adding that “the UN General Assembly treatment of Israel shows it's very dangerous model. This vote is bringing out the worst at the UN.”
Wilf told Haaretz that Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, “who is truly the first Palestinian leader to stop focusing on what the Jews are doing, who shows the kind of leadership that we can all respect” is actually working toward creating a viable Palestinian state, and has opposed going to the UN.
“He thinks the Palestinians might undermine the actual possibility of having state on the ground,” she added.
The Anti-Defamation League wrote in a letter addressed to the foreign ministers of the 27 nations of the European Union on Tuesday that they must advocate for a “zero-tolerance policy” against unilateral Palestinian actions.
"We urge your government and the European Union to adopt such a zero-tolerance policy for any Palestinian diplomatic initiatives other than resuming negotiations,” wrote Robert G. Sugarman, ADL National Chair, and Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director.