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State Dep’t threatens aid to Palestinians over ICC, but holds out no consequences for Israel’s settlements


Yesterday we saw two glaring double standards in the American official discourse when it comes to Israel and other countries.

First, in yesterday’s New York Times, longtime Israel advocate Dennis Ross called on all those who are pushing for a Palestinian state to offer Israel certain assurances, among them “a resolution of the Palestinian refugee issue that allows Israel to retain its Jewish character.”

Can you imagine the New York Times running an article saying that the U.S. has to be allowed to retain its white character in the face of rising numbers of Hispanics and Asian immigrants? No, you can’t. It goes against a modern liberal understanding of how societies are composed to say such a thing. Or retain the U.S.’s Christian character? Hogwash.

Now here is more hypocrisy flowing from the same official ideology, support for Israel. At yesterday’s State Department briefing, spokesperson Jen Psaki warned that the Palestinian accession to the International Criminal Court could result in a reduction of US assistance to the Palestinian Authority. The New York Times echoes this threat today: “Washington… is expected to cut $400 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority if the International Criminal Court bid is not reversed.”

But as reporters suggested in their questions, the Israelis have been building settlements in the occupied territories for nearly 50 years and we haven’t threatened to reduce their assistance. Psaki tried to dodge the double standard question by saying it was up to Congress to reduce assistance.

Annie Robbins points out that Psaki is saying that the Obama administration has no choice in the matter because Congress passed legislation stating that the money must be cut off. Just as it was not Obama’s choice to sanction Iran; no, that would only make things worse, Obama said. But Congress ordered sanctions. This is the same reason that the Supreme Court is now considering that passport case where an American wants his birthplace to be Jerusalem, Israel. The State Department refuses to allow such a designation, but Congress wants it. The lobby has no problem when the president is on its side, but as soon as executive power goes against it, it goes to Congress.

Here are excerpts of the State briefing:

MS. PSAKI: Let me just repeat that we’re deeply troubled by the Palestinian action regarding the ICC….

Now, as you noted, and as I think my colleague said last week, obviously there could be implications on assistance. There are a range of ways that could take place. Congress has a great deal of power in that regard, and that has been historically true. They are obviously watching closely what happens. I’m not going to get ahead of any action they may take. As you know, the Secretary of State also has a range of authorities, but I don’t have anything to preview for all of you today….

QUESTION: Could continued Israeli settlement activity, which you say is a unilateral act and which you don’t like, also have implications for U.S. assistance to Israel?

MS. PSAKI: Well, these actions are actions that would be taken by Congress, so I suggest you direct your question to them.

QUESTION: No, I mean, you were just very careful in answering Matt’s questions to not take a position on whether or not you would act vis-a-vis assistance to the Palestinians only if required to do so by law, i.e. by Congress. You’ve clearly, in your previous answers – and you also pointed out that the Secretary of State has some authority and jurisdiction and flexibility here…

MS. PSAKI: we constantly review our assistance; I don’t have anything to preview for you in terms of that assistance. We clearly do see a benefit in the U.S. assistance that we do provide and have provided to the Palestinian Authority. It’s played a valuable role in promoting stability and prosperity, not just for Palestinians but for the region.

QUESTION: Well, I guess the fundamental question is: Why, if it is not solely related to congressional action, to the legal framework within which you operate, if it is perhaps also a function of the Administration’s authority and policy decisions on their own, why shouldn’t unilateral Israeli actions also potentially be subject to diminution in U.S. assistance?…

MS. PSAKI: Overall, as you know, funding goes through Congress. They make decisions about what funding they will move forward on and not. That is the case here as well. So what I’m implying there, and you all know, is they are also watching and will make decisions accordingly. There are steps, depending on what it is, that the Secretary of State can take. But overall, the first step would be Congress….

QUESTION: But there is a question of whether or not there’s a double standard vis-a-vis the treatment of unilateral actions by either of the two parties to this dispute.

MS. PSAKI: But we’re talking about what’s legally required in a congressional bill as it relates to the Palestinian funding.

QUESTION: And Congress can apply whatever conditions it wishes or does not wish to, to either side, and there are no conditions that I’m aware of imposed on the state of Israel. So I get that. What I still don’t understand, though, is why you are not able to state categorically – if what you’re saying is right, that all you’re talking about here is congressional action – why you won’t say, “Look, we’ll do whatever the law obliges us to, but that’s it. We’re not looking at other things with regard to the money.”

MS. PSAKI: Because, Arshad, I’m not going to preview or discuss internal discussions. I conveyed to you what our focus is on, and beyond that I don’t have anything further to add.

The briefing offered no update on the State Department concern over that settler attack on an American official convoy to view a Palestinian village in the West Bank. “We’re still working with Israeli authorities on their investigation,” Psaki said.

Update: An earlier version of this piece said there had never been any consequences from the US government for Israeli settlement building. More than two decades ago, US presidents did threaten.


Phil Weiss and Annie Robbins

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss

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34 Responses

  1. a blah chick on January 6, 2015, 10:23 am

    Here’s the short version:

    Congress approves the aid to both parties and since they won’t let us cut Israeli aid we can only go after the Palestinians.

    • CigarGod on January 7, 2015, 9:55 am

      Yeah, it seems…even tho both $sums come from congress…the state department only has the flexibility to threaten palestinian funds. Id like to know the – clause – in any documented policy
      Law that allows this.

  2. annie on January 6, 2015, 10:40 am

    hmm, i think congress passed a bill a month ago saying the US would stop funding the PA if they joined the ICC and there was some clause on it that the president couldn’t wave it, so in this regard i’m not sure state can do anything about this. i think that is what psaki is saying.

    U.S. slams freeze on Palestinian tax money: We warned Israel it would cause tensions

    The U.S. State Department said Monday that the Obama administration opposed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to freeze the transfer of tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority in response to the latters’ efforts to join the International Criminal Court in The Hague…

    A senior Israeli official said on Sunday Jerusalem would be contacting pro-Israel members of the U.S. Congress to ensure the enforcement of legislation stipulating that if the Palestinians initiate any action against Israel at the ICC, the State Department would have to stop American aid to the PA, which comes to some $400 million annually. The stop-gap funding bill was passed in Congress last month.

    Both houses of the new Congress to be seated later this month will be controlled by the Republican Party, with many key positions filled by senators and representatives who are pro-Israel and anti-Palestinian. The law regarding the Palestinians initiating action at the ICC is strongly worded and states that President Barack Obama cannot waive a decision to halt aid to the PA.

    The U.S. administration is concerned about the ramifications of halting the financial assistance, which is liable to make it impossible for the PA to pay the salaries of tens of thousands of employees. Although Arab states have promised to provide the PA with a financial security net, the Americans believe that, as in the past, the Arab states won’t cough up the money they promised and won’t work to keep the PA afloat.

    • Blownaway on January 6, 2015, 12:41 pm

      Peter Beinart does a good job in Haaretz evicerating the Ross piece in Haaretz today and to your point the best thing that can happen is defunding the PA as a tool of the occupation from Paul Pillar today in The National Interest
      The PA was established two decades ago as supposedly a means to transition from naked occupation to a Palestinian state. Not only have the scheduled dates for that transition already gone far, far into the past; the PA has occupied a role that has made it more of an impediment to creation of a Palestinian state than the facilitator of one. With the PA existing as an entity that is supposed to have some state-like qualities but not be a state, Israelis who—like those currently in power in Jerusalem—oppose creation of a Palestinian state are able to have things both ways to keep such a state from ever coming into being.

      The PA serves as the Palestinians on the plantation, as distinct from the ones in Gaza who are off the plantation. The notion of the PA as a transition mechanism keeps alive the fiction that the Israeli government really is committed to such a transition. It keeps alive the notion that Palestinians should “earn” statehood by building a state from below, while the occupier imposes conditions on it from above that never really enables it to do that kind of building. And if the PA gets uppity enough to start behaving like a real state, as it has done at the UN and in signing those international conventions, then it swiftly gets slapped down.

      The most effective thing the PA has been permitted to do is to serve as an auxiliary administrator of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. Those who denounce the PA for signing treaties on grounds that it is not a state are right; it is indeed not a state. It is more like a prison trusty.

      Khalil Shikaki of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah says of the prospect that Abbas’s ICC move will bring about crippling economic punishment from the United States as well as Israel, “This could indeed be the beginning of the end of the PA. They fully realize that.” If this happens and the trappings of a false transition are stripped away, and a gussied-up occupation becomes once again a naked occupation, it may turn out to be the most useful thing Abbas has ever done. Such a development may stir the international pot just enough, and get enough more Israelis to think hard about the costs and consequences to their nation of continuing the occupation, to save the possibility of, in the words of the failed Security Council resolution, “two independent, democratic and prosperous states, Israel and a sovereign, contiguous and viable State of Palestine.”

      • W.Jones on January 6, 2015, 12:52 pm

        You could be right: If this happens and the trappings of a false transition are stripped away, and a gussied-up occupation becomes once again a naked occupation, it may turn out to be the most useful thing Abbas has ever done.

        Such a development may stir the international pot just enough, and get enough more Israelis to think hard about the costs and consequences to their nation of continuing the occupation, to save the possibility of, in the words of the failed Security Council resolution, “two independent, democratic and prosperous states, Israel and a sovereign, contiguous and viable State of Palestine.”
        Maybe, but who in the “international community” would effectively play this role? Western Europeans? Maybe. Liberal non-Zionists in the US? Maybe. It looks like a weak hand, but still not a totally bad one. If Palestinians survive and resist long enough (and not necessarily violently), i think they will have freedom eventually.

      • annie on January 6, 2015, 1:15 pm

        that’s a great comment blownaway. i’ve mentioned before i think the best thing right now would be the US not funding the PA and getting out of the middleman job, out of the way. everything we do empowers israel. everything would become much clearer, more stark and polarized, the way it really is .. there needs to be that for any kind of breakthru. people need to see this clearly for what it is. this coddled palestinian government serving the occupation drives me nuts.

  3. Boomer on January 6, 2015, 10:47 am

    As an American I feel ashamed and outraged by my own government at the same time. Unfortunately, this has become all too common. I’m sure it can’t be good for my mental or physical health. To the extent that I share any moral responsibility for it, it can’t be good spiritually either. I know many others feel the same way, but this seems to go on endlessly. Have our officials no shame, no decency?

    • bilal a on January 6, 2015, 5:22 pm

      you can’t bring a knife to a gun fight, nor secularism to a holy war.

      • Mooser on January 9, 2015, 7:27 pm

        “you can’t bring a knife to a gun fight, nor secularism to a holy war”

        Gee, I would think that secularism would be one hell of a weapon in a holy war. Unless, of course, you’re absolutely sure what God intends to do for you.

    • Atlantaiconoclast on January 6, 2015, 5:54 pm

      no, they don’t

  4. amigo on January 6, 2015, 11:58 am

    All this talk about what the congress will or will not do to Palestinians is imho superfluous and ignores the fact that the 2SS is dead and buried.The question for Psaki and co should be , If you keep punishing the Palestinians and they eventually throw Israel the keys who will then annex the WB /EJ and refuse equal rights to non Jews in the so called Greater Israel , what will you at the state dept have to say.Will we get more of this double talk and quite honestly insulting hogwash.Will you deny all responsibility for your part in this most unjust of injustices.

    Time to stop pussyfooting around with these paid Israeli propagandists and co conspirators.

    Psaki and her ilk are no better than Ross.

    • W.Jones on January 6, 2015, 12:58 pm

      The question for Psaki and co should be , If you keep punishing the Palestinians and they eventually throw Israel the keys who will then annex the WB /EJ and refuse equal rights to non Jews in the so called Greater Israel , what will you at the state dept have to say. Will we get more of this double talk and quite honestly insulting hogwash.

      At this point, you are asking a rhetorical question.

      • amigo on January 6, 2015, 3:17 pm

        “At this point, you are asking a rhetorical question.” WJones.

        No , I am suggesting someone at the coal face ask .Sometimes you have to fight rhetoric with rhetoric even if the response is already known.

      • NickJOCW on January 7, 2015, 4:04 am

        What Psaki would say is ‘I am not getting into hypotheticals’, which is her standard response to any ‘what if’ question. The fact is the US does apply double standards in the same way Gadaffi used to break wind vociferously and there is nothing can be done about it. However, blatant hypocrisy is unattractive and it is worth bearing in mind that it is not necessary to be pro-Palestinian to be anti-hypocrisy and by extension its perpetrators. I used to worry that Israel’s actions would engender antisemitism but the greater danger is US actions releasing anti-Americanism.

  5. a blah chick on January 6, 2015, 12:10 pm

    I say let them defund the PA out of exist, the sooner the better.

    • Walid on January 6, 2015, 10:00 pm

      The US started threatening to do it over a year ago. The US has already cut off funding to UNESCO (22% of its budget) in 2011 for having accepted Palestinian membership. A year ago, the Europeans threatened to cut off funding but it was mostly as a punitive measure against Israel; other than for Americans, the world has had enough of the occupation. You’re right about the PA, abc, the PA is what’s prolonging the occupation.

  6. just on January 6, 2015, 4:05 pm

    Don’t know if someone else has posted this, the site is a bit wobbly:

    “THE HAGUE (AFP) — The International Criminal Court said Palestinian authorities had formally recognized the court’s jurisdiction to investigate crimes allegedly committed during last summer’s Gaza war.

    The legal declaration would allow the ICC to scrutinize 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.

    Palestine has formally requested to join the Hague-based court in a move which opens the way to file suit against Israeli officials for alleged war crimes in the occupied territories, a request that has infuriated Israel.

    Acceptance of the ICC’s jurisdiction differs from accession to the Rome Statute, the court’s founding treaty. The UN is still reviewing documents submitted to join the Court.

    “On 1 January 2015, the Registrar of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Herman von Hebel, received a document… by the Palestinian government declaring Palestine’s acceptance of the jurisdiction of the ICC since 13 June 2014,” the ICC said in a statement.

    It was on June 13 that Israel began a massive crackdown on the West Bank after the kidnapping and subsequent murder of three Israeli teenagers, triggering a series of events which led to a seven-week Gaza war that killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians and 73 Israelis.

    “Acceptance of the ICC’s jurisdiction does not automatically trigger an investigation,” the court added.

    The ICC can prosecute individuals accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed since July 1, 2002, when the Rome Statute came into force.

    The ICC only has jurisdiction from that date onward, but those joining after that time may nonetheless separately accept the authority of the court for the period before the statute entered into force for them.

    To date, 122 countries have ratified the Rome Statute, with the notable exceptions of the United States and Israel.

    The Palestinian ICC bid is part of a shift in strategy for the Palestinians, who are seeking to internationalize their campaign for statehood and move away from the stalled US-led peace process.

    President Mahmoud Abbas signed requests to join the ICC and 16 other conventions after the Security Council failed to adopt a resolution paving the way to full statehood.

    The US has branded the ICC move as “counterproductive.””

    And the Palestinians want to join Interpol…

  7. Kathleen on January 6, 2015, 4:21 pm

    Bush 41 and Baker did threaten to cut or reduce US aid to Israel but do not think there were any real consequences for continued expansion of illegal Israeli settlements…just threats

    • seafoid on January 6, 2015, 4:38 pm

      Give Israel enough YESHA rope…

    • Walid on January 6, 2015, 10:40 pm

      Kathleen, Bush and Baker threatened to suspend American guarantees to Israel’s $10 billion loans that were up for renewal. The effect of the US guarantees was to substantially reduce the interest cost to Israel. Israel reacted by suspending settlements up to the time of the actual renewals, but soon thereafter returned to its evil ways and there was nothing that Bush could do about it.

      • Citizen on January 8, 2015, 1:53 pm

        I bet not one in 100 Americans know that their bankrupt government has been underwriting Israel’s debt for years, and still does.

  8. just on January 6, 2015, 4:42 pm

    Shoot them, have extremist, violent settlers move onto their land to terrorize them, starve them, leave the Gazans in the freezing rubble of their former refugee camps, demolish homes, burn their fields, destroy their crops, desecrate their houses of worship & their cemetaries, and always refuse to make peace with the indigenous people of PALESTINE, and cut all funds and taxes that were promised.

    Palestine used to be a land of “milk and honey” before the Nakba…..the Nakba which continues with the encouragement of Congress…

  9. Sulphurdunn on January 6, 2015, 6:03 pm

    Cutting aid to the Palestinians will not cost a single member or congress a single dime. Voting not to cut money to the Palestinians could cost them plenty. Voting to cut aid to Israel would most likely cost them their jobs.

  10. Katie Miranda on January 6, 2015, 6:19 pm

    I miss Helen Thomas.

  11. JWalters on January 6, 2015, 7:15 pm

    Another reflection of Israel’s “special” master-slave relationship with the U.S.

  12. Theo on January 7, 2015, 9:10 am

    I remember reading a report of a journalist years ago, who visited the State Department, section Middle East, that is covering countries like Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, etc.
    According to him there he saw only jewish employees, not one with an arabic name, the walls were covered with flags of Israel, pictures of israeli politicians and the Wailing Wall, signs to visit Israel, etc.
    Who with a sound mind believes that from that office a balanced policy toward those countries is practiced? They are a part of the israeli government, paid by us US taxpayers, who further every wish coming out Tel Aviv. (I refuse to name Jerusalem as the capital of Israel). We can expect a different and balanced policy toward those countries only when we remove all zionists, persons with israeli citizenship and paid off agents not only from the DoS, but all sections of the US government, intelligence services and the military.

    • CigarGod on January 7, 2015, 1:56 pm

      That is a very disturbing post.
      This is of course…exactly the situation at NPR, as well.

      Inordinate influence is the greatest threat to all Jews.
      No Arabs, not terrorism…but inordinate influence.
      We will have to learn this lesson for a few more incarnations…apparently.
      Pisses me off no end!

    • JWalters on January 7, 2015, 5:41 pm

      You may be thinking of Kay Grigg’s interview. She’s the ex-wife of a top level U.S. Army assassin, who tells what she learned about the use of sexual blackmail to control powerful people, the secondary weapons market, and involvement of select ex-military, the mob, and the Israelis. She describes her visit to the State Department at about 12:00 in the Part 2 video.

      Part 1

      Part 2

      Very informative and relevant.

      • Theo on January 8, 2015, 10:11 am


        Thank you for pointing out where I may have heard above statement about the ME Section. It sounds almost word by word what I wrote, so it must be true!

        Good 50 years ago I worked with our military counterintelligence in Europe and my team captured two female communist spies from the east. Normally we interogated them and eventually turned them over to the germans, however not this time, because one of them was jewish. After a short interogation Mossad agent showed up and she was turned over to them and they all left for Israel. So as you see, it is not new that we buckle down to zionist interests, that woman may have ended up in the USA and spied on us.

  13. TW on January 7, 2015, 5:08 pm

    ‘US lawmakers forced to support Israel’ – Cynthia McKinney on PressTV

    At 13:36 she starts talking about how the 535 American congress members must sign a pledge of allegiance to Israel…

    • just on January 7, 2015, 6:45 pm

      holy moley, TW! It’s completely surreal and unconscionable.

      I had never seen that before. EVERY American needs to see that. One more reason to enact campaign finance reform, though SCOTUS just made things worse.

      Cynthia is one articulate lady.

      • Theo on January 8, 2015, 10:27 am

        Holy moley, yes I miss Walther Matthau!

  14. pjdude on January 8, 2015, 11:33 pm

    we punish the people for only trying to protect themselves and their rights. we reward the people commiting war crimes. this is wrong and anyone who can defend it is messed up

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