Congress considers next steps after U.N. voted overwhelmingly to upgrade Palestine to a non-member observer state.
WASHINGTON — The American Israel Public Affairs Committee called for a "full review" of the U.S. relationship with the Palestine Liberation Organization, including shutting its Washington office, in the wake of its obtaining non-member state status at the United Nations.
"In requesting this action, PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is effectively turning his back on talks with Israel and destroying his credibility as someone genuinely interested in a serious peace process," the pro-Israel lobby said in a statement after the U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly approved non-member state status for the PLO on Nov. 29, 138 to 9 with 41 abstentions.
The vote was largely symbolic, upgrading it from non-member entity, to non-member state.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the proceedings at the United Nations, including Abbas sppech, but dismissed them as meaningless. "The world watched a defamatory and venomous speech that was full of mendacious propaganda against the IDF and the citizens of Israel. Someone who wants peace does not talk in such a manner," his office said in a statement.
"This is a meaningless decision that will not change anything on the ground. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made it clear that there will be no establishment of a Palestinian state without a settlement that ensures the security of Israel's citizens."
AIPAC, for its part, said: "Congress has specifically linked continued aid and the operation of the PLO office in Washington to the Palestinians not seeking statehood status at the United Nation. AIPAC applauds this congressional leadership and urges a full review of America’s relations with the PLO, including closure of the PLO’s office in Washington."
Laws passed by Congress to date impose penalties only for full U.N. membership, not the non-member status obtained this week.
A number of proposed laws now under consideration would, however, extend those penalties to the Palestinian Authority and to the United Nations for obtaining non-member statehood recognition.
The likeliest to pass, proposed Nov. 29 by Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and John Barrasso (R-Wy.), is conditional: It would cut foreign assistance to the Palestinians in the event they used their new U.N. status to press charges against Israel in the U.N. court system, and would shut the Washington office only if the Palestinian do not return to meaningful talks with Israel.
Cheers erupted in the General Assembly and leaders on the floor embraced Abbas following the vote, which came after contentious speeches by Abbas and Ron Prosor, the Israeli envoy to the United Nations.
Abbas called the vote the "last chance to save the two-state solution," while Prosor said the "resolution does not advance peace."
Few benefits accrue to the "observer state of Palestine" that the Palestine Liberation Organization, which had non-member status until the vote, did not already have.
Membership in constituent U.N. organizations is still not automatic and "Palestine" must apply for membership in each, as it did when the PLO was a non-member entity.
"Today's unfortunate and counterproductive resolution places further obstacles in the path to peace," U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said in floor remarks after the speech. "This resolution does not establish Palestine as a state."
Israel, the Obama administration and congressional lawmakers have indicated that there will not be immediate penalties for the successful Palestinian bid for statehood recognition.
A Palestinian bid last year to gain full membership failed when it was rejected by the U.N. Security Council. Non-member observer status needs only General Assembly approval.
This year, at least 17 European nations voted in favor of the Palestinian resolution, including Austria, France, Italy, Norway and Spain. Abbas had focused his lobbying efforts on Europe, which supplies much of the aid the Palestinian Authority relies on. Britain, Germany and others chose to abstain, the Jerusalem Post reported.
The Czech Republic was unique in Europe, joining the United States, Israel, Canada, Panama and tiny Pacific Island states likes Nauru, Palau and Micronesia in voting against the move.