Rep. Ros-Lehtinen to call for cutting UN, Palestinian funds over statehood vote

The chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee will call on Congress to cut funding for the Palestinian Authority and for United Nations (U.N.) agencies that recognize the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) as a state, The Hill has learned. 

The U.N. General Assembly is expected to overwhelmingly recognize Palestine as a non-member observer state in a vote Thursday, following a multi-year lobbying campaign by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen. 

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Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) will call on lawmakers to cut the $600 million in annual funding for the Palestinian Authority as well as any funding for U.N. agencies that recognize it.

“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.,” Ros-Lehtinen says 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. As other UN bodies will no doubt use General Assembly resolution as an excuse to grant membership to a non-existent Palestinian state, U.S. law is clear: UN agencies that grant membership to a Palestinian state lose their U.S. funding.”

Ros-Lehtinen vocally opposed the Obama administration's effort to restore $80 million in annual U.S. funding for the U.N.'s cultural agency, UNESCO, after it admitted Palestine last year. 


“If the Administration again seeks to gut U.S. law and keep funding those reckless UN agencies,” she said in Thursday's prepared remarks, “Congress’ response must be simple: No.”

Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), the chairman of the Foreign Affairs panel's Human Rights subcommittee, called for immediate repercussions.

“There needs to be a serious penalty imposed on a United Nations that has shown such anti-semitism and a disproportionate amount of attacks toward Israel itself,” Smith told The Hill.

Senators have yet to go so far. 

A bipartisan quartet on Thursday unveiled 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.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, however, told The Hill that some senators are still working on retaliatory legislation. 

“We're discussing how to handle that, a number of us,” he said in a short hallway interview. “We should react. We're having discussions about it.”