The two leading Republican presidential contenders weighed in today on the Palestinian initiative at the United Nations. Both Rick Perry and Mitt Romney urged the administration to threaten to cut off the flow of U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority to persuade them to back off on their attempt to evade peace talks by trying to get the UN to unilaterally grant them statehood. In addition, both believe the United States must also re-evaluate funding of any U.N. agency or organization that recognizes Palestinian independence under these circumstances.
The administration seems to have no interest in such a tactic, and it is likely the statements of both Perry and Romney will be dismissed by the media as mere politicking that displays little insight about the intricacies of international diplomacy. But both the administration and the media will be wrong about that. After months of futile attempts at appeasing the Palestinians in order to get them to abandon their UN gambit, it is high time the United States exercises its not inconsiderable leverage over both the PA and the UN.
The arguments against cutting of funding to the PA put forward by both the administration and even some in Israel are based on the idea an aid cutoff would lead to disaster on the ground in the West Bank. Without foreign money the corrupt and bankrupt PA will collapse, a turn of events that would only benefit Hamas, which is waiting patiently in the wings in their already independent state in Gaza for its Fatah rivals to lose power.
That may all be true, but the only reason PA leader Mahmoud Abbas has flouted U.S. interests by going to the UN in order to evade negotiations is he is convinced President Obama is too weak-willed and too besotted with a policy of appeasement to threaten the Palestinians. He actually expects to be allowed to spite U.S. interests, destroy the U.S.-sponsored peace process and undermine its influence and still get hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer aid to go on funding his corrupt government. UN agencies that are just as dependent on American largesse similarly believe Obama is too ideologically committed to the concept of multilateralism to do anything to diminish the world body–even when it seeks to harm America and its ally Israel.
The only way to stop the Palestinians from executing a plan aimed at gaining international recognition for their independence without first having made peace with Israel is to make it clear to them and their cheering section at the UN that to do so will mean an end to the U.S. gravy train that has amply funded their shenanigans in the past. Rather than an example of cowboy diplomacy, a credible threat would stop the Palestinians and the UN in their tracks, because it is not likely Abbas would be willing to commit political suicide merely in order to score some points at the expense of both the U.S. and Israel in New York this month.
But of course, Abbas has no such fear. He knows Obama is so afraid of rocking the international boat, there is nothing the Palestinians or the UN could do to interrupt the flow of American cash to their coffers. Nevertheless, Congress should exercise its power over the national purse to stop the flow of aid and pass House Foreign Affairs Committee chairwoman Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s bill, which would do exactly that.
The problem here is not the prospect of a collapse of the PA or a shortfall for the United Nations. It is the ever more imminent collapse of American credibility on the international stage, so long as Barack Obama refuses to act to defend its interests.