Visiting US Senator Lindsey Graham threatened Saturday to withhold US funding from the UN, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lashed out at the Palestinian Authority, a day after a senior Palestinian official said the PA will push for a UN vote on the Palestinian statehood bid by Monday.
“This is the same PA that joins hands with Hamas, incites constantly against Israel, the same PA is going to try to bring to the UN Security Council a resolution that seeks to impose on us conditions that will undermine our security,” the prime minister charged on Saturday at a press conference in Jerusalem with the Republican senator from South Carolina.
“We will stand firmly and reject such a diktat,” Netanyahu said.
Graham, a staunch pro-Israel senator, expressed support for the PM’s position, declaring that Congress would not “sit back and allow the United Nations to take over the peace process.”
Graham went so far as to say that “any effort by the French, the Jordanians or anyone to avoid direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians over the peace process, anyone who tries to take this to the UN Security Council” will be met with “a violent backlash by the Congress that could include suspending funding to the United Nations. We will not sit back and allow the United Nations to take over the peace process.”
He also said the US Congress “has your back, in a very bipartisan way. The Republican Party now runs the House and the Senate, and things will be a bit different. But one thing will be constant: There will be bipartisan support” for Israel.
Netanyahu also spoke about Iran and tied reports that the Islamic republic developed a new type of drone to the threat of their nuclear program: “Iran today conducted an exercise with a suicide drone. I don’t have to convince you, Senator, that the most important task before us is to prevent this dangerous regime from having nuclear weapons. And I believe that what is required are more sanctions, and stronger sanctions.”
Graham responded that the US Congress would follow Netanyahu’s lead with regard to the ongoing negotiations between the P5+1 and Tehran on reining in Iran’s nuclear program.
“If Iran walks away from the table, sanctions will be re-imposed,” said Graham. “If Iran cheats regarding any deal that we enter to the Iranians, sanctions will be re-imposed. It is important to let the Iranians know that from an American point of view, sanctions are alive and well. So we will be following your counsel and advice,” he told Netanyahu.
“You will see a very vigorous Congress, when it comes to Iran,” Graham went on. “You will see a Congress making sure sanctions are real and will be re-imposed at the drop of a hat. You will see Congress wanting to have a say about any final deal.”
Graham, as chairman of the foreign operations subcommittee of the incoming Senate’s Appropriations Committee, will wield considerable power in foreign policy.
Last month, he told an audience at the inaugural conference of the Israeli American Council. that Republican majority in the Senate will advance a bill that would subject any Iran nuclear deal to congressional review.
Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said Friday that the Palestinian Authority will ask the United Nations Security Council to vote on a statehood bid by Monday at the latest.
The bid calls for the recognition of a Palestinian state and an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines by 2017. The draft resolution sets a 12-month deadline for wrapping up negotiations on a final settlement. A final peace deal would pave the way to the creation of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as a shared capital, according to the text.
Erekat indicated that some revisions were made to the Jordanian-drafted text but it is not yet clear what items appeared on the finalized version, Israel Radio reported. The document has not been made public yet.
As of last week, France, working with Britain and Germany, was pressing on with a separate text on reviving the peace process, but it was unclear when that effort would yield results or if the Jordanian bid incorporated elements from the trio’s draft.
The Palestinian Authority has refused to postpone the vote until after Israel’s March 17 elections, despite international pressure. Recent reports indicated that Kerry had been pushing for the Palestinians to delay the vote, worrying that it could strengthen the Israeli right wing ahead of election day.
Earlier this week, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas warned that his administration would “no longer deal” with Israel if the United Nations Security Council resolution calling for a final peace deal fails.
JTA contributed to this report.