The United Nations last week voted overwhelmingly to recognize the Palestinian Authority as a nonmember observer state of the world body. The vote was not even close -- 138 delegates in favor of the measure, nine against and 41 abstaining.
Despite a cease-fire reached between Israel and Hamas, the Middle East remains volatile. Making the Palestinian Authority a nonmember observer merely endangers an already shaky peace process.
The United States voted against such recognition. It has been clear from the beginning that the Palestinian Authority is seeking the benefits of statehood without any responsibility. A state is, by definition, a geographic territory with a sovereign government, yet the Palestinian Authority admits to not knowing the location of its borders. It is impossible to have a state that cannot define its own land.
The Palestinians previously agreed in the Oslo Accords to negotiate statehood issues with Israel. This latest move is the equivalent of walking away from the negotiating table (which already was in pieces from Hamas attacks). The Palestinians take for granted the help Israel gives to their economy, including more than $100 million a month in taxes and allowing more Palestinians to travel to the West Bank. Israel is not holding up the peace process. Palestinian Authority officials think their newfound title will give them an even stronger bargaining position in their negotiations with Israel, but recognition from a biased international body will do nothing to advance peace.
The real reason the Palestinians have pulled this U.N. stunt is the perks they could gain. If the Palestinians decide to join the International Criminal Court, they could bring war-crimes charges against Israel, putting the fate of Israelis in the hands of an international judge. This court is so dangerous that even President Obama refuses to allow Americans to be prosecuted by it. So far, the Palestinian Authority remains fiercely committed to bringing Israel to the International Criminal Court. Many of the nations that support Palestinian statehood have requested assurance that Israel would be left alone if upgraded status was granted. The PA defiantly rejected those requests. On Nov. 28, the day before the U.N. vote, Hanan Ashrawi, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Oragnization (PLO), said, "We have not succumbed to pressure, we did not give any commitment." The world should know they mean what they say. Granting them this request means endangering Israel. Now more than ever, it is crucial that the United States shows the world its unwavering commitment to the security of Israel.
America must hold President Mahmoud Abbas and his cronies in the PLO responsible for their actions. Last year, we gave $495 million to the Palestinian Authority (PA). During the same time frame, Mr. Abbas' office budget was $72 million. He refuses to tell us or anyone else how he spends the money. There even are press reports that his own salary is $1 million a month. According to their own documents, the PA spent $194 million last year alone on offices that helped promote the Palestinians' push for recognition at the U.N. The United States should immediately cut funding to the PLO by at least $72 million next year and require Mr. Abbas to be transparent about his budget.
Peace will not come from decisions made by a corrupt international body. The United Nations should not have inserted itself into the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. As former Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Dore Gold said: "If there was a U.N. resolution whose first clause was anti-Israel and whose second clause was the earth is flat, the U.N. would pass it." If the Palestinians were committed to peace, they would be working with Israel, not hiding behind the U.N.
Rep. Ted Poe, Texas Republican, is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.