Republicans Move to Defund UN Over Censure of Israeli Settlements

Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham will soon present bill that would call to stop U.S. funding of the UN as long as Resolution 2334 stands, and to renew it only if the Security Council reverses it.

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In this Nov. 18, 2016, file photo. the American flag flies in front of the U.S. Capitol dome at sunset on Capitol Hill in Washington.
In this Nov. 18, 2016, file photo. the American flag flies in front of the U.S. Capitol dome at sunset on Capitol Hill in Washington. Credit: Alex Brandon/AP
Amir Tibon
Amir Tibon

Republicans on Capitol Hill are stepping up their response to the passage of United Nations Security Council resolution 2334, which criticized Israel's settlement policy.

On Thursday morning, Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) announced they will soon present legislation to defund the UN over the anti-settlements resolution, which was accepted by the Security Council in late December. The UN receives close to a quarter of its funding from the United States.

The Senators announced their new legislation in a joint interview to MSNBC's "Morning Joe." They explained that the bill would call to stop American funding for the UN as long as Resolution 2334 stands, and to renew it only if the Security Council reverses the anti-settlements resolution.

The resolution's two main clauses state that the settlements have "no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law," and call on the nations of the world "to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967."

The vote was able to pass the 15-member council because the United States broke with a long-standing approach of diplomatically shielding Israel and did not wield its veto power as it had on many times before.

Cruz called the resolution, which passed in the Security Council with a 14-0 vote "nothing short of shameful." He added that the resolution was "rabidly anti-Israel." Cruz specifically attacked the resolution because "it declared that Jerusalem is not a part of Israel." That's why, Cruz said, "Lindsey and I today are filing legislation to end U.S. taxpayer funding for the United Nations, end it all, unless or until they reverse the anti-Israel resolution."   

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives adopted a resolution condemning UNSC resolution 2334 and warning the Obama administration not to take any further steps regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the international arena before January 20th. A similar resolution was presented in the U.S. Senate by Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) with the support of both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConell (R-KY) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY.)

These resolutions, however, stopped short of punishing the United Nations for the vote, which is why they both received support not only from Republicans, but also from many Democratic Senators and members of the House. It's not clear yet how much bipartisan support the Cruz-Graham-proposed legislation could generate.

Senator Graham explained that the legislation was necessary because it was time for Congress to "step up" for American allies like Israel. Graham added that the U.S. decision not to veto the resolution was akin to "John Kerry and Obama taking a slap at Israel. We're going to push back." The Washington Post reported two weeks ago, shortly after the anti-settlement resolution was adopted by the Security Council, that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Graham "Please stand with us, it’s time to take the gloves off."

President-elect Donald Trump also criticized the Obama administration for not vetoing Resolution 2334, and promised that after he takes office "things will be different" at the UN. However, Trump hasn't provided specific details on how he plans to address the issue of U.S. funding for the organization, and it's not clear if he will support Graham and Cruz's legislation. In a Tweet composed last month, he wrote: "The United Nations has such great potential but right now it is just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time. So sad!"

Past U.S. administrations, both Democrat and Republican, have opposed drastic moves such as totally withdrawing American funding from the UN, and instead chose to stop funding for specific UN agencies or organizations that were deemed as problematic. The Obama administration in 2011 withdrew funding for UNESCO, the UN's cultural organization, after it recognized Palestine as a state. In 2002, the Bush administration withdrew support funding for the United Nations Population Fund because of a dispute over its abortion practices in China.

Members of the United Nations Security Council voted in favor of a resolution condemning Israel for its practice of establishing settlements last year - but have not acted to end the occupation.Credit: Manuel Elias/AP