President Obama has no plans to cut U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority following Thursday's statehood vote at the United Nations, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Friday.
Earnest told reporters traveling with the president aboard Air Force One that Obama has no plans to withdraw Palestinian aid and added that no consequences he can talk about are under consideration. The U.N. General Assembly voted 138-9 to recognize Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's Palestinian Liberation Organization as a non-member observer state over firm objections from the United States and Israel.
Some Republicans want to punish both Abbas, who is also known as Abu Mazen, and the U.N.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called on Congress to impose “severe economic consequences” for the U.N.'s “irresponsible” action. She said the United States should cut the $600 million in annual funding for the Palestinian Authority as well as any funding for U.N. agencies that recognize Palestine as a state.
“It’s crystal clear that Abu Mazen and his cronies are not partners for peace and do not value their relationship with the U.S.,” she said in a prepared statement. “The U.S must stand with our ally Israel and offer no U.S. taxpayer dollars and no political support for the PLO.”
And a bipartisan quartet of senators introduced 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 PLO’s Washington office unless the president determines that the Palestinians are engaged in “meaningful negotiations” with Israel.
The bill is championed by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and is being offered as an amendment to the pending defense authorization bill in the Senate. The senators said Thursday 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.”