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November 29, 2012

US Lawmakers Warn Palestinians on UN Move

by Cindy Saine

A large number of Republican and Democratic U.S. lawmakers are condemning Palestinian moves upgrading their status in the United Nations.  Some lawmakers said Thursday that it will hurt U.S.-Palestinian ties and called for a cut in U.S. aid to Palestinian organizations.  

The Palestinian Authority says the move to increase its status is a way to break the deadlock and to move forward with the Middle East peace process.  But Israel, the United States and other nations disagree.

The ranking Democrat on the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, Howard Berman voiced a position that the Obama administration and many lawmakers share and cautioned the Palestine Liberation Organization, or PLO, the political faction for the Palestinian cause.

"The whole world knows that Palestine is not yet a state, that it has virtually none of the attributes of the statehood enumerated in international law.  We will watch closely to see what the PLO does in the aftermath of this vote," said Berman.

A bipartisan group of senators said they will push for a vote to expel the PLO from its Washington offices and threatened to withhold U.S. financial aid to Palestinian organizations, if Palestinians seek to use their increased U.N. status against Israel.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman, Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen also questioned aid to the Palestinians.

"Earlier this year, the Obama administration decided to send economic aid to the Palestinians over congressional objections.  This included the use of taxpayer funds for such dubious projects as 'cash for work' in Gaza, scholarships for Palestinian students, office refurbishments and improvements to the P.A. [Palestinian Authority] agencies," Ros-Lehtinen said.

Democratic Representative Eliot Engel said the way to a solution is through direct negotiations.

"I am for a two-state solution.  The way we are going to ever get peace in the Middle East is for both sides to sit down and negotiate across the table, with no preconditions," said Engel.

Several lawmakers said they would wait to see what the Palestinian Authority, which administers the West Bank, does next before taking action.  The Hamas faction, which rules the Gaza Strip, has not been a party to the moves at the United Nations.