November 29, 2012
By Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas)
Today, the United Nations will vote on whether or not to recognize the Palestinian Authority as a nonmember observer state of the UN. With 132 nations having already recognized the Palestinian territory as a sovereign state and only 97 votes needed, I suspect the Palestinian Authority’s effort will be successful. Yet, despite a ceasefire reached between Israel and Hamas last week, the Middle East remains a volatile tinder box far from peace. Admitting the Palestinian Authority as a nonmember observer state will hurt, not help, a peace process that is already on shaky ground.
The United States has opposed the Palestinian Authority’s effort from the very beginning because it recognizes the instability that such recognition would create. The Palestinian Authority wants all the benefits of a state, without any of the responsibility. They fully admit that they don’t know what their borders are. By definition, a state is a geographic territory with a sovereign government. Yes, there are some countries with border disputes, such as India and Pakistan in the Kashmir region, but the Palestinians have no agreed upon border whatsoever. What is a state if it can’t define its own land?
The Palestinians themselves agreed to resolve statehood issues at the negotiating table in the Oslo Accords (which means they are required to negotiate bilaterally with Israel). Now they are figuratively walking away from the negotiating table and literally blowing it up with attacks from Hamas. Meanwhile, Israel continues to help the Palestinian economy, including collecting over $100 million a month in taxes for the Palestinians and allowing more and more Palestinians to travel to the West Bank. One thing is for sure: it is not Israel that is holding up the peace process.
With upgraded status at the UN come certain benefits. Here lies the real desire for the Palestinian UN gambit. A Palestinian state could bring war crimes charges against Israel in the International Criminal Court, putting the fate of Israelis in the hands of some international judge. This Court is so dangerous that even President Obama refuses to allow Americans to be prosecuted by it. The Palestinian Authority remains fiercely committed to bringing Israel to the International Criminal Court. Many of the nations who support Palestinian Statehood have requested assurance that Israel would be left alone if statehood was granted. The Palestinian Authority defiantly rejected these requests. Just yesterday, Hanan Ashrawi, a senior member of the 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.
Yes, the Palestinians may be successful today and no, the U.S. does not have veto power in a UN General Assembly vote, but there still can and should be consequences for the irresponsible actions of President Abbas and his old cronies in the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). Last year, we gave the Palestinian Authority $495 million. In the same timeframe, President Abbas’ office budget was $72 million yet he refuses to tell us or anyone else how he spends it. There are even press reports that his own salary is $1 million a month. According to their own documents, the Palestinian Authority spent $194 million last year alone on offices that helped promote the Palestinians’ push for recognition at the UN. The U.S. should immediately cut funding to the PLO by at least $72 million next year and require President Abbas to open up his budget for all to see. The days of giving money away to other nations with no transparency and no consequences for irresponsible behavior should be over.
The United Nations has no business getting involved in the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the UN said: “If there was a UN resolution whose first clause was anti-Israel and whose second clause was the earth is flat, the UN would pass it.” Peace will not come from decisions made by a corrupt international body. If the Palestinians were committed to peace they would be working with Israel, not hiding behind the UN. And that’s just the way it is.
Poe is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.