Graham: Obama, Rice not to blame for UN vote on Palestinian statehood

President Obama and his embattled ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, are not to blame for the Palestinian statehood bid that's expected to gain overwhelming support at the U.N. General Assembly Thursday afternoon, said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

“I'm not blaming the administration. I am saying that the Palestinians created this problem and this is a major setback for U.S.-Palestinian relations and I think the peace process,” Graham said. “This is not about what we've done. This is about what they've done.”

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Graham made the comments at a press conference with Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) unveiling bipartisan legislation to cut off aid to the Palestinians if they use their new status to pursue criminal charges against Israel at the International Criminal Court. The bill would also shutter the Palestinian Liberation Organization's Washington office unless the president determines that the Palestinians are engaged in “meaningful negotiations” with Israel.

The bill will be offered as an amendment to the pending defense authorization bill in the Senate. The senators said they did not want to punish the Palestinians by immediately terminating the $600 million in annual U.S. aid in order to preserve the chance for a negotiated two-state solution with Israel.

“It's a very clear message to the Palestinians: the choice is yours,” Menendez said. “We could have pre-empted that choice. The choice is yours. If you return to a negotiation, we're good.”

Some Republicans are demanding immediate repercussions. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) on Wednesday introduced legislation that would cut off the almost $600 million the United States pays in U.N. dues every year if the Palestinians' status is changed.

And House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) during a hearing on Israel Thursday called for repercussions.

“What will the day after the vote look like?” she said. “There must be consequences for Ramallah’s rejectionism and continued irresponsibility.”