The Palestinian Authority’s top gun in D.C.: Benjamin Netanyahu

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The Palestinian Authority’s (PA) decision to buck the United States and ask the United Nations for statehood recognition has provoked a chorus of U.S. officials to threaten the PA with a cut-off in aid, among other consequences.  But there will likely be no U.S. aid cut-off, and that’s because the PA has a powerful ally with easy access to Congress:  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 

The New York Times reported this week that the Obama administration enlisted Netanyahu to convince Congress not to cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority.

This news might be confusing if you’ve only been paying attention to the conventional wisdom that the UN bid, as Ali Abunimah put it, “pit[s] Israel and the United States on one side, fiercely opposing it, and Palestinian officials and allied governments on the other.” But the reality is that Israel and the PA work closely together, and that the PA functions as a subcontractor for the Israeli occupation.  Republican calls for a cut-off in aid to the PA are just posturing.

Netanyahu knows that the PA, first and foremost, serves Israeli interests by preventing any Palestinian challenge to Israel’s occupation regime. The UN bid won’t change that. It is, as Adam Shatz aptly wrote in the London Review of Books, an “extraordinary arrangement: the security forces of a country under occupation are being subcontracted by third parties outside the region to prevent resistance to the occupying power, even as that power continues to grab more land.”

Netanyahu’s move to advocate for American funding for the PA comes on the heels of a Reuters report that showed that some Israel lobby groups are working hard to keep the PA’s coffers full with U.S. money. An Israeli government report also recently called for a continuation of aid to the PA.

Here are more details about Netanyahu lobbying for the PA from the New York Times report on September 20:

When the Obama administration wanted to be certain that Congress would not block $50 million in new aid to the Palestinian Authority last month, it turned to a singularly influential lobbyist: Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

At the request of the American Embassy and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Mr. Netanyahu urged dozens of members of Congress visiting Israel last month not to object to the aid, according to Congressional and diplomatic officials…

One of the members of Congress who attended the meeting with Mr. Netanyahu in August, Representative Michael G. Grimm of New York, a Republican, said that it was carefully explained to the delegation that the money would be used for training Palestinian police officers who work closely with the Israeli government…

The notifications required to Congress before releasing the aid give committee leaders the power to put holds on delivery of the aid — something the administration sought to avoid by urging Mr. Netanyahu to intervene to keep the money flowing last month. The $50 million was the last of $200 million this year in direct budget assistance to the Palestinians.

While the American aid to the Palestinians has been viewed with suspicion by some of Israel’s supporters, the Israeli government, especially through its security officials, has expressed support for it.

“Netanyahu made the pitch to members at the request of the secretary and embassy,” a Congressional official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss private diplomatic discussions.

Any future Republican calls for an cut-off in U.S. assistance to the PA, which is at $600 million a year, will just be bluster meant to twist the arms of Mahmoud Abbas for daring to not listen to U.S. dictates.  AIPAC and the rest of the lobby that follows the Likud Party line will make sure that it remains bluster. 

Alex Kane is a New York City-based freelance journalist who blogs on Israel/Palestine at Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

About Alex Kane

Alex Kane is an assistant editor for Mondoweiss and the World editor for AlterNet. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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7 Responses

  1. seafoid
    September 23, 2011, 12:50 pm

    This is a cracking article

    link to

    “Diana Buttu, a former Palestinian negotiator who has since been critical of Abbas’s leadership, said his insistence on going to the security council had delivered a diplomatic victory of sorts. “Is this a coup for Abbas? Yes, absolutely,” she said. “This is the first time since 1974 that Palestine has been able to capture international attention at the United Nations in this way. He’s managed to get people discussing whether Palestine should be recognised as a state, whether it should get its independence immediately, how we get there. It’s been a brilliant move.”
    A European diplomat said Abbas had changed the diplomatic equation. “The ground has shifted. There’s been no peace process to speak of for years. Obama has tried and failed to push Netanyahu in to taking negotiations seriously. There’s a feeling that this crisis has created a moment to try a different way.

    Palestinian sources say they believe Washington has bullied several security council members into withdrawing their support for the Palestinian move, including Portugal by threatening to withhold support in financial institutions for its stricken economy, and Bosnia over its opposition to Kosovo being admitted to the UN. Palestinian officials believe Nigeria is no longer certain to vote in their favour. There are also questions about the position of Gabon and Colombia.
    One senior Palestinian official said the Americans were “playing a really nasty game”.

    Buttu said the challenge now for Abbas was to ensure the momentum created this week continued in the Palestinians’ favour. “I think the old negotiations process has completely run its tired course. You’ve got countries around the world recognising that you can’t just have this process of endless negotiations with the so-called honest broker who’s not so honest at all. This has put the final nail in the coffin of the United States being the honest broker,” she said.
    “Now it’s being seen for what it actually is, which is Israel’s lawyer. The next step depends on what Abbas does. Is he going to continue to pander to the Americans? Or is he really going to try to build up an international coalition that will deal with this in a very different way to how it’s been dealt with in the past?””

  2. American
    September 23, 2011, 1:06 pm

    While this is true the PA police and security does coordinate with Israel and does kowtow to Israel security.

    1) Palestine establishing police forces was a requirement for US aid.
    2) Palestine establishing ‘law and order”, so to speak, is one of the
    “measures” Palestine had to meet to be considered sufficiently ready
    for statehood.

    People look at something like this and see it as a sellout by the PA or proof they are in league with Israel.They are in league with Israel on this only because they have to be. Netanyahu doesn’t mind going to bat for Pal’s aid money since it benefits Israel ‘right now’ and he thinks there’s never going to be a Palestine state anyway. Abbas does whatever he has to do to keep the aid money ‘right now’ for security even if it does benefit Israel ‘right now’ because it’s necessary for the benchmarks of Palestine Statehood readiness.

    The most jarring news here is the US President actually had to get a Foreign State head to tell the US congress what to do.

  3. radkelt
    September 23, 2011, 1:09 pm

    Abbas has no legitimacy legal or otherwise, and has been hopelessly compromised by Israel. Do you suspect his U.N. move might result in
    obviating the right of return?

    • AhVee
      September 23, 2011, 3:55 pm

      “Do you suspect his U.N. move might result in obviating the right of return?”

      How might that happen?

  4. mig
    September 23, 2011, 4:16 pm

    “Palestinian sources say they believe Washington has bullied several security council members into withdrawing their support for the Palestinian move”

    ++++ Same thing happened at UN in 1947. US bullied several countrys to accept resolution 181 and split of Palestine. Good job, you did it again.

  5. DICKERSON3870
    September 23, 2011, 5:20 pm

    RE: “Netanyahu urged dozens of members of Congress visiting Israel last month not to object to the aid [to the PA], according to Congressional and diplomatic officials…” ~ NYT

    THE LITMUS TEST: Will the freshmen GOP congressmen elected with the help of the “tea party” (to reduce spending) stay true to their “roots”; or will they instead obey their new Israeli master(s)?

  6. yourstruly
    September 24, 2011, 12:46 pm

    if the spectacle at the united nations has shifted the momentum towards justice for palestine

    what will be the indicators?

    1) the sharp escalation in peaceful resistance by palestinians

    2) a profound escalation by worldwide justice for palestine movement

    3) public opinion dramatically shifting towards the palestinian cause, especially among americans

    4) breakthrough!

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