REPORTING FROM WASHINGTON -- U.S. House Republican leaders signaled this week that they are serious about cutting off aid to the Palestinian Authority if its leaders continue their quest for U.N. recognition as a sovereign state.
The Republican leaders of the House Appropriations Committee this week released a preliminary 2012 spending plan that would prohibit aid to the Palestinian Authority unless the State Department certifies that the Palestinians aren’t seeking to gain full membership in the United Nations.
The Republicans, led by Rep. Harold Rogers of Kentucky, believe that the U.N. move is aimed at gaining unfair leverage in stalled peace negotiations with the Israelis.
Some leaders of both parties in Congress have threatened a cutoff of more than $500 million in aid, but it had been interpreted as a means of deterring Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas from filing a formal application, a step he took Friday.
“Until now there was speculation that this was just a threat,” said Dylan Williams, legislative director for J Street, a lobbying group that opposes a cutoff. “This is a serious step in the direction of actually cutting off aid.”
Administration officials and other critics contend that cutting off the aid would undermine the authority’s leadership, strengthen extremists and potentially touch off violence.
-- Paul Richter
Photo: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, left, hands an application for full U.N. membership to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York on Sept. 22, 2011. Credit: Eric Thayer / Reuters