Senate panel approves $53B foreign aid bill, threatens to close PLO office in DC
In a blunt message to the Palestinians, a Senate panel on Wednesday threatened to close the Palestine Liberation Organization’s office in Washington if it defies the United States and Israel by pursuing a unilateral bid for statehood at the United Nations.
The vote in the Senate Appropriations Committee came as the U.S. and France pressured Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to abandon his bid for membership and return to negotiations with Israel. The diplomatic maneuvering unfolded in New York as the United Nations opened its annual meeting, with Abbas expected to submit his letter of application on Friday and the U.S. vowing a veto in the U.N. Security Council.
In Congress, frustrated lawmakers used the committee’s debate and approval of a $53 billion bill to fund the State Department and foreign operations next year to signal there would be consequences if the Palestinians press ahead.
“This is all falling apart,” said South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, the top Republican on the foreign operations subcommittee and the sponsor of the amendment, who railed against the Palestinian move.
The amendment to the foreign aid bill would seek recommendations from the secretary of state on what appropriate steps Congress should take, especially possible closure of the PLO office in the United States, if the Palestinians seek statehood recognition at the U.N. rather than pursue direct negotiations with Israel.