It may be a matter of trying to kill two birds with one stone or just settling a very old score for some of the more hardline conservatives, but several Republican senators have introduced legislation to slash funding to both the United Nations and the Palestinian Authority if, as expected, the world body upgrades Palestinian membership.
The Palestinians are to go before the General Assembly on Thursday with their request for recognition as a nonmember state.
This move in the Senate -- which is aimed not only at the Palestinians but also the United Nations and all its agencies and the countries that vote for the upgrade -- makes me think they're trying to revive the old John Birch Society campaign to "Get the US out of the UN and the UN out of the US."
It is also another opportunity for conservative Republicans and their religious right allies to out-Israel the Democrats and the Obama administration.
What the senators have done is introduce a pair of amendments to the Pentagon authorization bill, which contains no related funding for either the Palestinians or the United Nations, but that is apparently irrelevant to these lawmakers.
The impact of one bill would be to cut by half US funding for the Palestinian Authority for applying for the upgraded status and for any UN agency for recognizing it. In addition, American aid would be cut by 20 percent to any country that votes for the measure unless the president signs a national security waiver.
The cuts would continue "until permanent status issues between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are fully resolved."
The other would bar all funds for the United Nations if it grants Palestinians a change in status before "the Secretary of State certifies to Congress that a comprehensive peace agreement has been reached with the sovereign state of Israel."
The senators, all Republicans are John Barrasso (WY), Mike Lee (UT), James Inhofe (OK), Orren Hatch (UT), Pat Roberts (KS), Saxby Chambliss (GA), Roger Wicker (MS), Tom Coburn (OK), Jim Risch (ID) and Marco Rubio (FL). Several sponsored both bills, neither of which has a chance of becoming law.
Americans for Peace Now had it pegged:
The first shot has been fired in the much-anticipated Congressional battle to punish the Palestinians for seeking to upgrade their status at the UN - and to also punish any UN agencies and any countries that support them.
We expect to be hearing from the full spectrum of pro-Israel and Jewish organizations as the debate begins at Turtle Bay. APN has endorsed the move, but most others will oppose the move but their responses will be worth noting, as they range from tongue clucking to carpet bombing. That's how you can tell who can be taken seriously and who is just blowing more angry hot air out of Philadelphia.
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