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.