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Israel seeks allies to halt Palestine’s U.N. bid
“We believe that both the conditions need to exist together, because they are connected to one another,” Nimmer Hammad, the Abbas aide, told Israeli Army Radio, claiming that dovish Israeli President Shimon Peres had “tried to get Netanyahu to agree to only one condition and he refused.”
Having abandoned hopes of averting a U.N. vote, Israeli officials have begun debating their actions on “the day after.” Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned the Palestinians on Wednesday that their bid would bring “harsh and grave consequences.”
Israel argues that by unilaterally seeking statehood — a violation of the 1993 Oslo Accords — the Palestinians are freeing Israel to renege on its own promises, such as not annexing West Bank territory or withholding tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.
“Many different options are being discussed — and seriously,” an Israeli official told The Washington Times.
In Washington, lawmakers from both parties threatened the Palestinians with their own response: a cutoff of U.S. aid.
“By providing the Palestinians with $2.5 billion over the past five years, the U.S. has only rewarded and reinforced their bad behavior,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said during a hearing on the topic.
“It raises tough questions as to just what are the tangible benefits for the U.S., or for lasting peace and security between Israel and the Palestinians, derived from decades of assistance provided by the United States taxpayers,” the Florida Republican said.
Rep. Eliot L. Engel, New York Democrat, argued that the Palestinians’ U.N. move “dooms peace.” He said he is not “prepared to send one red cent more to the Palestinian Authority unless they prove to me that they’re serious about peace with Israel.”
Mr. Engel also claimed that in a meeting last week, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad “said to me that he thinks the Palestinians going to the U.N. is the stupidest thing that they could possibly do.”
Ghaith al-Omari, a former Palestinian negotiator, said some Palestinian officials are concerned that the U.N. move would damage U.S.-Palestinian relations and jeopardize Mr. Fayyad’s hard-fought gains on the economy, security and institution building.
Like Mr. al-Omari, Middle East analysts who testified during Wednesday’s hearing warned that a cutoff of U.S. aid would be counterproductive, potentially leading to a collapse of the Palestinian Authority.
“Policymakers must always ask themselves: ‘Who benefits from these actions?’ I think the group that stands to benefit most from a cutoff of aid to the PA would be Hamas, which does not recognize Israel’s existence at all,” said David Makosvky, director of the Project on the Middle East Peace Process at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Elliot Abrams, a former deputy national security adviser, told lawmakers that they should “keep some powder dry” before seeing how Palestinian leaders word their U.N. resolution and act after the vote. But he recommend closing the PLO’s Washington office.
“What they’re basically saying if they go forward in the U.N. is, ‘The status we have … that’s not good enough,’” he said. “So my argument is that you would be responding, ‘OK, if the PLO doesn’t work anymore for you, why do we need to have a PLO office in Washington?’ “
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Ben Birnbaum is a reporter covering foreign affairs for The Washington Times. Prior to joining The Times, Birnbaum worked as a reporter-researcher at the New Republic. A Boston-area native, he graduated magna cum laude from Cornell University with a degree in government and psychology. He won multiple collegiate journalism awards for his articles and columns in the Cornell Daily Sun.
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