Posted by on September 16, 2011 in Blog
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki confirmed yesterday that on September 23, 2011, the Palestinian Authority (P.A.) will submit a bid for full membership at the United Nations Security Council. The remarks made by al-Maliki ended speculations that the Palestinians might avoid a showdown with the United States by sidestepping the Security Council and going directly to the U.N. General Assembly to seek a lesser status of a non-member observer. Today, Foreign Minister al-Maliki said that President Abbas will present the bid for statehood to the Security Council and will deliver a speech to the General Assembly in New York on September 23.
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Israel’s failure to honor previous agreements or to live up to its commitment to the two-state solution led to the Palestinian leadership turning to the international body to seek recognition of statehood and membership. The U.S. and Israel are having a panicked reaction to this initiative. The Obama Administration has been clear in stating that should the Palestinians try to push their bid through to the UN Security Council, the U.S. will veto the proposal. In July, H.Res. 268, introduced by Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), was overwhelmingly passed (407-6), reaffirming U.S. insistence on negotiations, no matter how lopsided, as the means for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and opposing any attempt to establish or seek recognition of a Palestinian state through the United Nations. A similar resolution was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Cardin (D-MD) and supported overwhelmingly by ninety senators.
Earlier this summer, a record number of 81 Members of Congress, whose expenses were paid by an AIPAC affiliate, visited the region to deliver a personal message to the Palestinian leadership that they oppose their actions and were pushing them to reconsider their move for U.N. recognition or risk losing U.S. aid. “We’ve given a clear communication to Prime Minister Fayyed that we thought that it’s a step back…and is not helpful,” said Rep. Tom Price, a fourth-term Republican from Atlanta, continuing, “there is great sentiment for not continuing the aid, because the vote is so destructive to formulating a bilateral agreement on a peace.”
In attempting to dissuade President Abbas from moving forth with statehood recognition at the U.N., Congress has organized a number of hearings re-evaluating U.S. aid to the P.A. and threatening to terminate aid to the P.A. and UNRWA should the former move forward with their bid. In addition to threatening the Palestinian leadership, Congress is also seeking to retaliate against the United Nations and nations supporting the UN bid. H.R. 2829, “United Nations Transparency, Accountability, and Reform Act,” introduced by the Chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, would cut off U.S. contributions to any U.N. entity that recognizes membership or any other upgraded status for the Palestinian leadership.
Earlier this week, Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) introduced a resolution,
“prohibiting foreign military financing program assistance to countries that vote in the UN General Assembly in favor of recognizing a Palestinian state in the absence of a negotiated border agreement between the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority.”
It’s unprecedented for a Member of Congress to author explicit legislation for the sole purpose of intimidating other states into voting a certain way in the UN General Assembly. Additionally, House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) led a letter signed by 58 House Democrats including Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, House Foreign Affairs Ranking Member Howard Berman, and Appropriations State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee Ranking Member Nita Lowey, that will be sent to 40 key European heads of state today, “urging them to stand with the United States in opposing unilateral action by the Palestinian Authority at the United Nations.” The EU enjoys a unique leverage since the U.S. position as well as the rest of the world is essentially already set. Both Israel and Palestinian leadership have indicated that the position the E.U. adopts will determine the outcome of the diplomatic battle, and Members of Congress are wasting no time in trying to persuade the EU to oppose Abbas’ efforts.
By attempting to thwart the U.N. membership bid, and by preparing for retaliation in the event that it goes through, the U.S. is simply not pursuing sound policy. More pointedly, these efforts are destined to fail in dissuading a determined Palestinian leadership from pursuing this bid. The reaction exhibited thus far by the Administration and Congress is likely to exacerbate the conflict and, by putting its bias on full display, undermine the US role in any future efforts to negotiate an end to the conflict. Tell Congress to refrain from opposing the Palestinian bid for U.N. membership, and to back away from the unwise threats of cutting funding to the U.N. and the P.A.
NOT ANOTHER HIT: Recent polls in the Middle East have indicated a huge drop in Arab opinions of the U.S., due to the disappointment found in the gap between the raised expectations of President Obama’s Administration and actual U.S. policy since his election. After vetoing the UN resolution condemning settlements in the midst of the Arab Spring, the U.S. cannot take yet another hit in the region by being seen as the primary player obstructing much needed change and the Palestinians’ pursuit of viable independence.
MISDIRECTED BLAME: The real obstacle to peace is Netanyahu’s out-of-hand rejection of a solution based on the 1967 lines, sharing Jerusalem, freezing settlements, or resolving the refugee question in accordance with their internationally recognized rights. As long as the U.S. is unable to restrain the Israeli government’s illegal settlement expansion, or soften its rejectionist position on Jerusalem, borders, or refugees, the US should not obstruct Palestinian efforts to pursue their rights through the U.N.
DON’T CUT FUNDING TO THE U.N.: As Ambassador Susan Rice noted, “when we fail to meet our treaty obligations to pay our assessed contributions… our influence is diminished, our standing is injured, and our ability to pursue important initiatives that advance US national security and US national interest is gravely undermined.” The U.S. should not undermine its international standing just for the sake of punishing those who agree that the Palestinians should be able to pursue their rights through an international body.
DON’T CUT FUNDING TO THE P.A.: Cutting aid to the P.A. not only puts Palestinian families who are dependent on P.A. salaries through immediate and unnecessary hardships, but also dismantles the progress made toward viable statehood and threatens regional security, thus undermining U.S. interests in the region.
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