Despite insistence from both Israel and the U.S. that peace talks should be prioritised, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has confirmed his intention to launch a UN statehood bid on 23 September and as tensions rise, U.S. politicians are now threatening to cut U.S. Palestinian aid.
With Palestine now having the support of Arab, African and some Europeans countries, and with the bid date fast approaching it seems that the U.S. have decided to up their pressure on the Palestinian leaders with both congressional Republicans and Democrats threatening to cut off some $500 million in economic and security assistance to the Palestinians if they go ahead with the UN membership request.
The Obama administration finds itself in a difficult situation as the Palestinian statehood bid now risks interfering with the country's image abroad, especially in the Muslim world. While the U.S. has been a strong ally of Israel for many years, the Netanyahu government has found itself increasingly ostracised regionally, as emerging regional actor Turkey has cut diplomatic ties with the country and led the pro-Palestinian campaign in the region.
With the international community divided and with more than a 100 countries saying they would support the bid, the U.S. reaction is increasingly being criticised as forceful and outdated, proving the administration's unwillingness to acknowledge that old cold war tactics cannot be reapplied.
While threatening to cut off aid and pressuring European allies into taking the same position might have been acceptable twenty years ago, at a time where authoritarian measures have been criticised and rejected by millions of demonstrators in the last few months, the U.S. reaction has led many activists to insist the hegemon is still trying to bully weaker states into acting in line with the U.S. and its allies national interests.
Moreover, the main U.S. argument has been that the only final solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict would come out of negotiations, which have until now failed to produce a durable solution, despite decades of efforts and now the Washington Post has reported Abbas received a letter by Congress warning of the consequences of the bid.
"Current and future aid will be jeopardized if you abandon direct negotiations and continue your efforts," Reps. Kay Granger, R-Texas, chairwoman of the House Appropriations foreign operations subcommittee, and Nita Lowey of New York, the panel's top Democrat, wrote to Abbas this summer, echoing a plea they made to the Palestinian leader in an April letter, the Washington Post reported.
And with the Palestinian leader still defying the U.S. warning, a group of 58 House Democrats wrote a letter to European leaders urging them to vote against Palestinian statehood and stand with the United States.
"The United States will reconsider its assistance program for the Palestinian Authority and other aspects of U.S.-Palestinian relations if they choose to pursue such a unilateral effort," "A unilateral declaration of independence is simply rejectionism by another name . it takes away any motivation from the Palestinians to negotiate and deal with good faith with Israel," Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Friday in a conference call with reporters sponsored by the Hudson Institute and Touro College.
Former President Clinton however, said cutting off aid would be a mistake, telling ABC's "This Week", "I think that everybody knows the U.S. Congress is the most pro-Israel parliamentary body in the world. They don't have to demonstrate that."
Diplomatic efforts to prevent the bid from taking place have continued over the weekend but the results of a BBC poll which asked 20,000 people in 19 countries if they support independent Palestine showed 49% of responders said yes, 21% said no, 30% not sure, indicating that more people around the world support an independent Palestinian state than oppose it, according to a BBC poll released on Monday.
Of the nations surveyed, the strongest objections to the unilateral declaration came from the United States and the Philippines (Israel was not among the nations polled), where 36% said their government should not support the Palestinian move.
Despite their objections, however, 45 per cent of Americans and 56 per cent of Filipinos polled said they do support the move.
Europeans responded similarly, with 54 per cent of French participants supporting and 20 per cent not supporting, 53 per cent of Germans supporting and 28 per cent not supporting, and 53 per cent of Brits supporting, with 26 per cent not supporting the creation of a Palestinian state.
In the Arab world, however Egyptians showed their mass support as 90 per cent of Egyptians voted in favour, while only 9% opposed, and 60% of Turks voted in favour, while only 19% voted against the move.