Pro-Israel Congress members threaten aid cut-off in response to Palestinian ICC bid

US Politics
on 34 Comments

Threats to cut off U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) came in fast and furious last week after Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas signed the treaty to join the International Criminal Court.

On December 31, the day Abbas made his surprise announcement, a leading pro-Israel member of Congress called on the Obama administration to suspend aid to the PA. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican and the head of the House’s Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, said that Congress should “block funds to the PA and to any UN entity that recognizes a non-existent State of Palestine to make it clear to Abu Mazen that there will be consequences to his schemes at the United Nations and other international organizations like the International Criminal Court.”  Senator Charles Schumer said “the P.A. should be reminded that the recent appropriations bill signed into law will restrict U.S. funding if they attempt to initiate an investigation through the ICC.”

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters on January 5 that the ICC bid could have “implications” for U.S. assistance, and that “Congress has a great deal of power in that regard.”

The statements are part of what promises to be a months-long dance between the U.S., Israel and the Palestinian Authority over the move to sign the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the International Criminal Court. If the ICC accepts the PA’s application, Abbas would have the opportunity to file a war crimes case against Israel over settlement building or over the assault on Gaza. That would intensify the ongoing showdown between Israel and the U.S. and the Palestinian Authority. Israel has seized about $127 million in taxes that are normally remitted to the PA.

The Republican takeover of Congress will lead to more threats to the PA. But for now, it’s unlikely that the Obama administration will heed Ros-Lehtinen’s call for an immediate cut-off in U.S. aid over the application to join the ICC. An aid-cut off would be a blow to the PA’s economic standing and could destabilize the authority’s rule–a risky gambit since the PA’s cooperation with Israel helps Israel by transferring the key duties of an occupying power to the PA. The PA also cracks down on militant groups trying to attack Israel. The PA’s security coordination with Israel is crucial in efforts to stop unrest in the West Bank that could affect Israeli life.

Yousef Munayyer, a Palestinian analyst based in Washington, D.C., told me that the threats to strike a blow at the PA is more bluster than anything else.

“The Israelis and the Americans are going to act really upset with this move. But the reality is that it’s really not that big of a deal to them,” he said. “At the end of the day, the Israelis need the PA, and the PA needs the Israelis, and the Americans need them both to find a way to stick around with the negotiations paradigm that they have.” He added that the PA made the move to mollify critics at home and that it gives the authority a bargaining chip in negotiations with Israel.

The situation could change if the PA decides to file a war crimes case against Israel in the coming months. U.S. law states that economic aid to the PA must be cut off in the event of a war crimes case against Israel at the ICC. The law contains no option for a waiver authorizing the release of funds to the PA, an option that usually accompanies similar decisions. Israel has asked pro-Israel members of Congress to make sure aid is cut off to the PA if a war crimes case is filed, according to Haaretz’s Barak Ravid.

Munayyer said that it’s unlikely Abbas will follow through with his threats, which would largely take the threat of U.S. aid cuts off the table.

Since the creation of the PA in the 1990s, the U.S. has given the authority about $5 billion in aid, according to a Congressional Research Service report (pdf). Annually, that amounts to an average of $500 million, with $400 million being a part of what is called the Economic Support Fund, the pool of money that Congressional members are threatening to reduce. U.S. funding makes up about about a quarter of overall international support for the PA.

Similar threats to cut off aid to the PA have accompanied the Palestinian leadership’s moves in the past to turn to the United Nations. U.S. funding was temporarily delayed in 2011 and 2012 in response to PA moves to obtain statehood recognition at the UN.

“They may cut off aid for some period of time, but they cannot risk the Palestinian Authority disappearing,” said Munayyer. “They simply can’t do it because the Israelis won’t allow it.”

About Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist who focuses on Israel/Palestine and civil liberties. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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34 Responses

  1. fapescia
    January 5, 2015, 6:29 pm

    This is good news. It is about time that the US stopped funding the collaborator regime of Abbas. I think of it as temporary bad for long time good. The Palestine police must now defend their own people.

    We have them on the run. Just like Annie, I have always watched the far right, especially Caroline Glick. The devil woman is truly spooked by the student movements like Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine.

  2. a blah chick
    January 5, 2015, 6:37 pm

    “They may cut off aid for some period of time, but they cannot risk the Palestinian Authority disappearing,” said Munayyer. “They simply can’t do it because the Israelis won’t allow it.”

    When Ileana Ros-lethinen tried to cut the funds for some malfeasance a few years ago AIPAC sent its lobbyist to the Hill to talk her down.

    • fapescia
      January 5, 2015, 7:27 pm

      This threat has been going on for years. You want to occupy us– then pay for it. Pay for the police. Pay for the schools. Pay for the hospitals. Let the US and Europe, and the Gulf States stop paying for the illegal occupation. There will be pain.

      If Israel turns Palestine into Biafra, with starving children begging for a bowl of rice, who will continue to support this unlawful occupation.

      The Palestinian elite will suffer. The children of the leaders who attend Oxford and Harvard will suffer. In the long struggle, there will be winners and losers.

      • Laurent Weppe
        January 6, 2015, 5:30 am

        If Israel turns Palestine into Biafra, with starving children begging for a bowl of rice, who will continue to support this unlawful occupation.

        Racists who enjoy watching brown people suffer and callous patricians who believe that starvation is an efficient tool in keeping the plebs submissive.

  3. a blah chick
    January 5, 2015, 6:41 pm

    Also may I say that the man pictured above is a truely evil person.

    • bilal a
      January 6, 2015, 2:25 am

      The evil of leading members of the Lobby are unfathomable to most Americans:

      As a member of Epstein’s defense team, Dershowitz arranged the deal that kept the victims from telling their tales in court, but sent Epstein to prison on only a relatively minor charge. According to the CVRA plaintiffs, “Dershowitz helped negotiate an agreement that provided immunity from federal prosecution in the Southern District of Florida not only to Epstein, but also to ‘any potential co-conspirators of Epstein.” If the allegations against Dershowitz are true, he engineered an agreement that insulated himself from prosecution as a co-conspirator
      http://abovethelaw.com/2015/01/a-second-look-at-the-allegations-against-alan-dershowitz/

      chuck schumer major donrs

      Jeffrey Epstein Billionaire, money manager, sex offender (See Notes).
      9 contributions ⋅ $22000 (’92→’98)

      http://littlesis.org/person/13575/Chuck_Schumer/donors

    • Marnie
      January 6, 2015, 3:52 am

      Maybe if they cut the funds Schumer can buy a new suit.

      There are way too many strings attached to money from the United States. Maybe another country or countries would provide aid to Palestine without the crap that goes with it from the US.

      When and if they make this historic move, cut the aid to Israel? I’m sure American taxpayers are sick to death of funding this parasitic welfare state. Man up USA and cut Israel’s aid. You Fox news types just hate welfare – prove it and cut them off. I’m sure Sheldon Adelson would be more than happy to pick up their tab; maybe they’d even make him honorary dictator.

    • Giles
      January 6, 2015, 6:23 am

      Dumb as dirt too. Amazing what intellectual mediocrities we have in place throughout our system of governance

    • CigarGod
      January 6, 2015, 10:13 am

      Yes, but isn’t it a fantastic photo? The photographer nailed it. Never seen a photo that stayed crisp at full blow up…on my phone.

      Yes, the guy is reptilian.

    • RockyMissouri
      January 6, 2015, 12:11 pm

      I have come to share that opinion, as well. A man without conscience.

    • piotr
      January 6, 2015, 12:40 pm

      I can’t tell if “a blah chick” is correct, because just glancing at he picture induces intense pain. Is it just me, or is it a singularly hideous jacket in that picture?

      • RoHa
        January 6, 2015, 6:11 pm

        Brace yourself, man. You are right, of course, but those are the sort of horrors we must endure as we strive for truth, justice, and good grammar.

  4. JWalters
    January 5, 2015, 6:59 pm

    Here’s Senator Schumer complaining that the Palestinians “don’t believe in the Torah, in David”, so they deserve to be economically strangled.
    http://thinkprogress.org/security/2010/06/11/102026/schumer-strangle-gaza-economically/

    The Torah has been thoroughly debunked as a justification for Israel’s criminal cruelty.
    https://consortiumnews.com/2015/01/03/israeli-founder-contests-founding-myths/

    In view of the recent Dershowitz case, one wonders – does Schumer really think this way, or is he being blackmailed?

    • Kay24
      January 5, 2015, 9:14 pm

      It shows Schumer is an ignoramus, with no principles. He is just being the devoted slave to the mothership. If he knew about the majority of Palestinians, who follow Islam, he would not make such an ignorant statement about the Palestinians not believing in the Torah. The Quran does recognize the Torah and the Bible, and the people of the Books, that they believe God gave David and Jesus, but apparently the schmuck fails to admit that the Torah does NOT recognize the Quran, nor Muslims. You would find more Muslims respecting the Torah, than the opposite, in this world.

      • Annie Robbins
        January 5, 2015, 9:41 pm

        “the devoted slave to the mothership.”

        lol, love your framing

      • Abu Malia
        January 6, 2015, 6:44 am

        Yes Kay24, the Quran is littered with verses talking about Prophed Da,uud (David). I know Muslims name their kids Da,uud and even Issa (Jesus) and revere them both as messengers of Allah.

        On the other hand, the Quran was revealed much latter than even the bible.

  5. Pixel
    January 5, 2015, 7:12 pm

    “Pro-Israel Congress members threaten aid cut-off in response to Palestinian ICC bid”

    I couldn’t agree more.

    All aid TO ISRAEL should ABSOLUTELY be cut off.

  6. Whizdom
    January 5, 2015, 8:37 pm

    I wonder how much of this is for internal consumption, within Israel, to maintain the illusion in the Israeli electorate that the worlds greatest superpower vigorously supports the occupation, supports the war on Islamists, and dismisses Palestinian aspirations, even if the rest of the world doesn’t.

  7. Nite_Owl
    January 5, 2015, 9:05 pm

    Only criminals are afraid of their day in court and the Israelis are terrified. Tells you all you need to know. They’ve been terrified of ANY investigations into their cheap propaganda since WW2. I trust NOTHING they say.

  8. CloakAndDagger
    January 5, 2015, 9:31 pm

    Here’s hoping that we hear about some sexual perversions by these same congress critters in the Dershowitz dragnet and then see them scurrying for cover.

    • bilal a
      January 6, 2015, 2:28 am

      The allegations against Dershowitz are direct and specific. And the lawyers making them are high powered scotus advocates:

      Paul Cassell and Bradley Edwards represent the plaintiffs in the CVRA suit. Edwards is a Florida attorney representing Epstein’s victims pro bono. Cassell is a University of Utah law professor focusing on crime victims’ rights. He argued before SCOTUS on behalf of child pornography victim Amy Unknown in last term’s Paroline v. United States, for example. He is a former D.C. Circuit and Supreme Court clerk, and a former Assistant U.S. Attorney. Most notably, Cassell is a former U.S. District Judge. Neither he nor Edwards are amateurs.

      http://abovethelaw.com/2015/01/a-second-look-at-the-allegations-against-alan-dershowitz/

  9. seafoid
    January 6, 2015, 2:06 am

    They are so vindictive and short sighted.

  10. Daniel Rich
    January 6, 2015, 3:14 am

    Enough safety features built in: The legal declaration would allow the ICC to scrutinise offences allegedly committed since June 13, 2014, the start of Israel’s military operation, but does not mean the court would automatically launch an investigation, it said.

  11. seafoid
    January 6, 2015, 5:38 am

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/06/us-israel-reuven-rivlin-palestinian-tax-revenues

    The decision by Binyamin Netanyahu to order the withholding of Palestinian tax revenues in response to Mahmoud Abbas’s application to join the international criminal court has been sharply criticised by Israel’s president and the US, as well as senior Palestinian figures.

    Although Washington remains strongly opposed to last week’s signing by Abbas of the Rome Treaty – which governs the international court of last resort – the Department of State issued a statement condemning the decision to freeze the transfer of $127m (£83m) in tax revenues.

    “We conveyed to the Israelis that freezing the tax revenues is an action that raises tensions,” the department spokesman Jen Psaki told reporters at a daily briefing on Monday. “We oppose any actions that raise tensions and we call on both sides to avoid it.”

    • bryan
      January 6, 2015, 7:35 am

      Surely this is a unilateral action? I thought Israel disapproved of any unilateral action?

      • seafoid
        January 6, 2015, 10:01 am

        Unless carried out by Israel

  12. NickJOCW
    January 6, 2015, 10:01 am

    The situation is in flux in a Heracletian sense, you cannot step into the same river twice. Abbas may well shortly resubmit the PA bid to the UN http://rt.com/news/219779-palestine-resubmit-statehood-bid/ and Israeli actions over tax, and similar threats from Congress, wont drive any supporters away and can only strengthen his support elsewhere.

  13. piotr
    January 6, 2015, 12:54 pm

    So the obligation to cut-off economic assistance to Palestinian Authority if it initiates a proceeding against Israel in ICC or cooperates with such proceedings is in “HOUSE AMENDMENT TO THE SENATE AMENDMENT TO H.R. 83”. I think that honorable members of Congress forgot to insert the following clause:

    Pledge of Allegiance recited in American schools shall be amended as followed: the words “justice for all” shall be followed with “except those singled out by U.S. Congress.

    Whereas the Pledge is already confusing for younger pupils, this addition will not be recited but explained in appropriate classes. Secretary of Education can spend 10 million dollars to design and disseminate appropriate changes in curricula.

  14. Boomer
    January 7, 2015, 7:57 am

    Silverstein says go ahead and cut it:
    http://www.richardsilverstein.com/2015/01/07/u-s-threat-to-cut-400-million-in-aid-israeli-cancelling-pa-tax-payments-its-all-good/

    I would say let’s end the military assistance to Egypt, which is really about benefiting Israel and our own military-industrial-congressional complex.

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