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House bill would cut UN funding over anti-settlements resolution

Legislation mirrors Senate bid to slash funds to international body unless it repeals Resolution 2334

Members of the UN Security Council vote in favor of condemning Israel's settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem on Friday, Dec. 23, 2016 at United Nations Headquarters. (Manuel Elias/United Nations via AP)
Members of the UN Security Council vote in favor of condemning Israel's settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem on Friday, Dec. 23, 2016 at United Nations Headquarters. (Manuel Elias/United Nations via AP)

House Republicans have introduced a companion to a Senate bill that would cut funding to the United Nations unless it repeals a recent resolution that condemned Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as illegal.

Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, the chairwoman of the foreign operations subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee, and Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., introduced the bill on Wednesday, two weeks after Sens. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, introduced a similar bill.

Graham chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee foreign operations subcommittee, indicating that the Republican leadership in both chambers is lending the initiative serious backing. Both Granger and Graham are in a position to control the flow of money to the United Nations.

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.

Senate Armed Services Committee members, South Carolina Lindsey Graham (R), right, and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R), participate in the committee's hearing on the impacts of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Wednesday, July 29, 2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Senate Armed Services Committee members, South Carolina Lindsey Graham (R), right, and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R), participate in the committee’s hearing on the impacts of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Wednesday, July 29, 2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Israel’s government, parts of the pro-Israel community and congressional Republicans were infuriated in late December when the Obama administration, in its final month, for the first time allowed through the UN Security Council resolution.

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.”

President Donald Trump condemned the vote at the time, questioning the efficacy of the United Nations, and promising that “things will be different” when he is president. However, it is not clear whether he would back cutting the funding overall.

US President Donald Trump speaks on the phone with Russia's President Vladimir Putin from the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC on January 28, 2017. (AFP/Mandel Ngan)
US President Donald Trump speaks on the phone with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin from the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC on January 28, 2017. (AFP/Mandel Ngan)

Last week, the New York Times reported that Trump was preparing to sign two executive orders that would halt US funding to the UN and other bodies that grant full membership to the Palestinian Authority and the PLO.

The orders would reduce the United States’ role in international bodies, including the United Nations, and start a review process that would seek to potentially withdraw from multilateral treaties, the report said.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley at UN Headquarters in New York on January 31, 2017 (YouTube screenshot)
US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley at UN Headquarters in New York on January 31, 2017 (YouTube screenshot)

Trump’s UN ambassador, Nikki Haley, during her confirmation hearings reassured Democratic senators that she understands the importance of funding the institution.

Democrats, while excoriating the United Nations as a hotbed of anti-Israel sentiment, have said cutting funds would only diminish US influence in a forum for peacemaking and for delivering relief.

Obama, for his part, defended the move as advancing peace and maintaining Israel’s long-term Jewish and democratic character, and dismissed the notion that he betrayed Israel.

Previous administrations have generally opposed such drastic measures against the UN, although Obama did decide, in 2011, to cut funding to UNESCO over its accepting a Palestinian bid for full membership.

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