Posted by Guest on February 06, 2017 in Blog

By Basseem Maleki

The 115th United States Congress has only been in session for 35 days, yet it has already taken steps that could adversely affect U.S. policy towards Israelis and Palestinians. 

On February 1, U.S. Representatives Ted Budd (R-NC) and Mark Sanford (R-SC) introduced H.R.789, “No Bonuses for Terrorists Act.” They argue the legislation would “cut off American aid to the Palestinian government until the Secretary of State has certified that the Palestinian Authority (P.A.) and the Palestinian Liberation Organization have stopped paying benefits to the families of terrorists…”

This overlooks the fact that most of this money supports millions of Palestinians in need of aid. According to the Obama Administration’s FY 2017 budget request, the funds would enable the P.A. to provide necessary health, infrastructure, and education services. Furthermore, if Budd and Sanford believe that it is justifiable to withhold funds from civilian Palestinian men, women, and children because some of the money may end up in the hands of extremists, it would then be hypocritical to ignore the U.S.’s $38 billion military aid package to Israel – a military that has a record of committing gross human rights violations.

In addition to H.R.789, several bills in the House and Senate have called for the U.S. to either fully withdraw from the United Nations or to completely defund it. The House Committee on Foreign Affairs held a hearing last week that addressed the ways in which the Trump administration should deal with the U.N. and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Representative Chris Smith claimed that “the state of Israel finds itself in the crosshairs of a delegitimization campaign mounted by a growing number of nations in the United Nations and especially in U.N. institutions.” Other members in attendance voiced similar beliefs. 

Many in the room stated that U.N. Security Council Resolution 2334 – condemning Israeli settlements – was a disaster that undermines the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and it must be revoked. Multiple congress members also argued that U.N. funding should be withheld until the resolution is repealed. No one at the hearing spoke in favor of the unanimously passed U.N. resolution. Senators Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz have already introduced legislation that would cut off U.N. funding until the resolution is repealed. At the hearing, there was less consensus on U.S. withdrawal from the U.N., however, with some arguing for withdrawal and others calling for reform.   

American contributions to the U.N. account for 22% of its total budget, which is essential to helping the U.N. achieve its goals of maintaining international peace & security, protecting human rights, delivering humanitarian aid, and much more. Withdrawing from the U.N. would not only have irreversible effects on the civilian populations relying on U.N. humanitarian aid, but it could also be catastrophic for our country’s international relations. The U.N. hosts negotiations and enables dialogue between governments, a critical platform for resolving conflicts such as the Arab-Israeli conflict. Withdrawing could also have the unintended effect of undermining the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Abandoning the U.N. would send a clear message to the international community that not only does America now “put their own interests first,” but America now completely disregards the needs of those who are less fortunate.

Basseem Maleki is a Spring 2017 intern with the Arab American Institute