Op-Ed: AIPAC-backed letter from US House seeks to punish PLO, UN

Posted Dec 24, 2012 by Ken Hanly
A letter from the Republican-dominated US House of Representatives asks Obama to shut the PLO office in Washington to punish the PLO for seeking and winning observer status at the UN.
Mahmoud Abbas
Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority.
World Economic Forum (CC BY-SA 2.0)
The letter also urges defunding of UN organizations that enhance PLO membership. Over half of the members of the House signed the letter. The letter was supported by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) an Israeli lobby group.
The letter said:"One important way of expressing U.S. disapproval would be to send the message that such actions are not cost-free and that, at a minimum, they result in setbacks to U.S.-Palestinian relations."
The letter was sent December 21 initiated by incoming and outgoing leaders of both Democratic and Republican parties on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. 239 members including Rep. Eric Cantor a Republican from Virginia the majority leader, but also Rep. Steny Hoyer, a Democrat, the minority whip.
When the UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in favor of granting the Palestine Liberation Organization(PLO) non-member observer status. Israeli prime minister Netanyahu called it meaningless and claimed that it will do nothing to promote actual statehood. If the status change were meaningless it would hardly seem reasonable to punish the PLO for having achieved their goal. The new status will allow the PLO to charge Israel with war crimes in the international court system. While Netanyahu may consider such a move also meaningless, it would be bad for public relations.
The letter, though supported by AIPAC, was introduced by Republicans Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and Ed Royce of California. On the Democratic side were Howard Berman of California and Eliot Engel of New York. Earlier a similar amendment was attatched to a Senate defense funding bill but did not come to a vote.
Ros-Lehtinen and 59 other lawmakers sent a letter of thanks to Canada, the Czech Republic, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, and Panama, all of whom voted against the UN motion recognizing Palestine as a non-member observer at the UN. While 41 countries abstained, the vote in late November was 138 to 9 in favor.