WASHINGTON — Republican Senators are introducing legislation that would defund the United Nations over the Security Council’s passage of a resolution last month that condemned Israeli settlements as illegal.
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R) told MSNBC and Fox News Thursday morning that they will propose the Safeguard Israel Act, which aims to punish the world body for its censure of Israel, in the coming days, as well as incentivize the UN to reverse course.
Cruz spoke on the Senate floor last week, saying he and his former presidential rival would seek to “cut US taxpayer funding going to the UN, unless and until they repeal this disgraceful anti-Israel resolution.”
The US government gives the United Nations roughly $8 billion in both mandatory payments and voluntary contributions each year, with at least $3 billion going to its regular and peacekeeping budgets.
Those funds make up 22 percent of the UN’s financial resources, more than any other country contributes.
Graham said Thursday the US should not continue providing that kind of support if the UN routinely castigates Israel.
“I don’t think it’s a good investment for the American taxpayer to give money to an organization that condemns the only democracy in the Mideast, takes the settlement and says ‘that’s the most important and only issue in terms of an impediment to peace,'” he said on Morning Joe.
“I think most Americans believe the United Nations has become more anti-Semitic, more anti-Israeli,” he added. “I’m a big internationalist, but we’re gonna stop the money until we get this fixed.”
Graham originally said he would file such a motion, forming a bipartisan coalition to halt US funding to the UN, on December 23, hours before the Security Council cast its votes, when it emerged that the Obama administration was prepared to allow the resolution’s passage.
The motion that passed after the US abstained — UNSC Resolution 2334 — designates the settlement enterprise “a flagrant violation under international law” and calls for a complete end to all construction in areas Israel captured after the 1967 Six Day War, including East Jerusalem and the Old City, which includes the Temple Mount and Western Wall, the holiest sites in Judaism.
It also calls on all states “to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967” — language that Israel fears will lead to a surge in boycott and sanctions efforts, and that an Israeli official warned would provide “a tailwind for terror.”
Cruz called 2334 “a profoundly anti-Israel resolution,” explaining his opposition to its content.
“It declares much of Israel illegal and illegitimate, much of Jerusalem it declares as not legitimately part of Israel, it declares the Jewish Quarter is not part of Israel, it says the Temple Mount, the holiest site for the Jewish people in Jerusalem, and the Western Wall,” he said.
“We all remember the image of Barack Obama, wearing a yarmulke, standing in front of the Western Wall; he’s now taken the position that it is illegal occupied territory.”
President Obama, for his part, defended the move as advancing peace and maintaining Israel’s long-term Jewish and democratic character, recently telling Israeli television that, because the settlement issue has “become a barrier to a two-state solution,” he has “an obligation to do what I think is right.” He dismissed the notion that he betrayed Israel.
Previous administrations have generally opposed such drastic measures against the UN, although President Obama did decide, in 2011, to cut funding to UNESCO over its accepting a Palestinian bid for full membership.
President-elect Donald Trump may be receptive to the Graham-Cruz proposal, as he he has not been shy to voice his objection to Obama’s allowing the Security Council resolution through.
After it passed, he tweeted to the Israeli people that “things will be different” once he takes office on January 20.