Must Act to Prevent Unilateral Move to Create Palestinian State
By Clifford Smith
September 30, 2016
President Obama is
be considering a
major reversal of decades-long U.S. policy toward Israel by supporting a UN
Security Council resolution that unilaterally recognizes a Palestinian state
before a peace agreement is negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians.
Congress must act to counter this bold and reckless move that endangers Israel's
security and America's strategic interests.
There is much at stake: Israel is a free and democratic
ally in a hostile region that has been repeatedly attacked by its neighbors.
Before it occupied the West Bank, Gaza, and Golan Heights in 1967, these
territories were used as a base of war and terrorism against the Jewish state.
Offers to create a Palestinian state in Gaza and most of the West Bank that
would allow for a safe and secure Israel have been repaid by intifada after
Others have argued persuasively that any Palestinian state
established in the absence of a peace agreement with Israel will become a
virtually ungovernable hotbed of terrorism sure to threaten not just Israel, but
also the region and the world. The events in Gaza in the past decade strongly
support this position. Ordinary Palestinians will also suffer, forced to endure
rule by the same Islamic fanatics and brutal, corrupt autocrats who have destroyed
A White House decision to support unilateral Palestinian
statehood would unquestionably be contrary to the will of Congress:
88 senators recently signed a letter opposing such an action, while 388
members of the House have signed a similar letter supporting a veto of all
"one-sided" UN resolutions concerning the Israel/Palestine issue.
And these numbers understate congressional opposition:
several senators refused to sign the letter because
they thought it was insufficiently strong. Furthermore, a White House
reversal on unilateral Palestinian statehood would also be contrary to the
stated policies of both
the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees.
To dissuade a determined White House from this course of
action, Congress will have to do more than write letters. Here are some of the
legislative options that could throw significant roadblocks in its path.
First, Congress should make clear its intention to sanction
any unilaterally-declared Palestinian state and its new leaders, blocking their
access to U.S. banking and markets, similar to sanctions
on the Iranian regime. Loss of access to the U.S. financial system would be
extremely costly to any Palestinian regime.
Second, Congress should make clear its intention to
immediately and completely cut hundreds of millions of dollars in annual U.S.
direct aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the event that President Mahmoud
Abbas succeeds in his bid to win Palestinian statehood recognition at the UN.
Congress reduced this aid by 22 percent last year in
retaliation for the PA's continuing terrorism incitement. It would be a
significant blow to a new state to cut all such aid.
Third, Congress should mandate that any newly-created
Palestinian state be designated a state sponsor of terrorism. This designation
would include restrictions on U.S. foreign assistance; a ban on defense exports
and sales; and various other restrictions. The Palestinian Authority (PA)
currently uses a shell-game to pay
the families of terrorists, something Congress is
currently working to stop. Other PA ties to various terrorist activities go
Finally, Congress should review and update decades-old federal
laws prohibiting U.S. funding of any UN organization that "accords the
Palestine Liberation Organization the same standing as member states" to
ensure that they apply and cannot be skirted if Abbas wins Security Council
recognition of Palestinian statehood.
Congress should use its power boldly to exert influence
over this vital issue. Large majorities in Congress opposed the Iran nuclear
deal and had both the facts and public opinion on their side. But due to the
peculiarities of the law and the politics of the situation, they were
outmaneuvered. Congress should work to ensure this situation is not repeated.
Though knowledgeable and trusted congressional leaders like
Vandenberg and Henry
"Scoop" Jackson once led coalitions in Congress that held great
influence in foreign affairs, there is a bipartisan
belief that Congress has shirked
its duty to shape foreign policy in recent decades. Now would be a good time
to start taking it back.