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Senators Introduce First Effort to Punish Palestinians over UN

The first shot has been fired in the much-anticipated Congressional battle to punish the Palestinians for seeking to upgrade their status at the UN - and to also punish any UN agencies and any countries that support them.

The vehicle for this attack is S. 3254 - the highly contentious National Defense Authorization Act, which the Senate is now considering.   For those who keep track of these sorts of things, there is NOTHING in the NDAA that in any way relates to the Palestinians.  No funding, no programs - nothing.  But that hasn't stopped Senators Barrasso (R-WY), Lee (R-UT), and Inhofe (R-OK) from introducing an amendment whose purpose is defined as "To provide for restrictions on foreign assistance related to the status of the Palestinian mission to the United Nations."  A copy of the amendment, which was filed this afternoon, is available here.  Senator Barrasso's press release touting introduction of the amendment is available here.

The amendment seeks to do three things:

(1) Compel the President to cut U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority by 50% if the PA "seeks at any time after November 25, 2012, at the United Nations General Assembly or any other United Nations entity status different than the status it held on November 25, 2012" -- with such cuts continuing "until permanent status issues between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are fully resolved";

(2) Compel the President to cut by 50% U.S. "appropriated contributions to any United Nations entity" that grants the Palestinians any upgrade in status after November 25, 2012, with such cuts continuing "until permanent status issues between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are fully resolved"; and

(3) Compel the President to cut by 20% U.S. assistance to any country that after November 25, 2012 votes to grant the Palestinians full membership in the UN, or votes to grant them non-member state status, or votes to otherwise "alter" the status of the Palestinians at the UN "that interferes with the resolution of permanent status issues between Israel and the Palestinian Authority," with such cuts continuing until the country in question "votes at the United Nations to revert the status of the Palestinian mission back to the status it held on November 25, 2012."  The amendment permits the President to waive this one category of cuts (but not the others) for national security reasons.

Some observations:

(a)  While the amendment is by any and all measures entirely non-germane to the base bill, that doesn't mean it won't be considered and doesn't mean it won't pass.

(b) Nowhere in the amendment - which was filed on November 28th and likely won't be considered earlier than November 29th (and quite possibly not until AFTER the UN votes on the Palestinian resolution that same day) - is any explanation given for the arbitrary red line of November 25, 2012 - a red line that makes little sense given that it will be legislating as a "threat" a reaction to something that will likely  already have transpired.

(c) While the amendment frames the sanctions in terms of a reaction to actions that are "undermining Israeli-Palestinian Permanent Status Negotiations," the "findings" section of the amendment - the place where normally one would expect the amendment's drafters to at least make a pretense of building a case in support of the amendment's legislative goals - offers zero rationale for asserting that upgrading the Palestinians' status at the UN would actually do this.

(d) The drafters of the amendment appear unaware that the Palestinian presence at the UN is not part of the Palestinian Authority, but the PLO (as in, it is flat-out wrong to assert that the Palestinian Authority is seeking to change its status at the UN).