Middle East

Lawmakers threaten cutoff of Palestinian aid

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) (R) and U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH (L)) speak to reporters after meeting with U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, on Capitol Hill November 27, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Win McNamee/Getty Images/AFP)

WASHINGTON: A bipartisan group of senators warned the Palestinians on Thursday that millions in U.S. financial aid and its Washington office are in jeopardy if they use upgraded U.N. status against Israel.

Hours before the expected U.N. vote to admit Palestine as a nonmember state, four senators called the move provocative and introduced legislation threatening to cutoff U.S. assistance.

"The biggest fear I have is that the Palestinians achieve this status it won't be very long before the Palestinians use the United Nations as a club against Israel," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

The measure, which the lawmakers plan to offer as an amendment to a far-reaching defense bill, would cut off assistance to the Palestinian Authority if they file charges against Israel in the International Criminal Court. As a nonmember state in the U.N., the Palestinians could join the court and press war crime charges against Israel.

Unwillingness to conduct meaningful negotiations with Israel would result in the immediate closing of the Palestinian Liberation Organization's office in Washington.

"We are committed, Democrats and Republicans, to using every means at our disposal to ensure that this U.N. General Assembly vote does not serve as a precedent for elevating the status of the PLO," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

The Senate is debating the defense bill and could wrap up the legislation by week's end. Proponents of the measure, including Sens. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., and Bob Menendez, D-N.J., said they expect it win overwhelming approval.





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