Lindsey Graham (KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)
BY MARY ORNDORFF TROYAN
Gannett Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON -- Congress would cancel about $935 million in foreign aid to the Palestinians if they use their new standing in the United Nations to pursue Israel in the International Criminal Court, Sen. Lindsey Graham said Thursday.
Senators from both parties stood together to condemn Thursday's vote by the U.N. General Assembly elevating Palestine's status to a "nonmember observer state."
"This is a provocative unhealthy step that could undermine the peace process," Graham said.
The resolution passed the U.N. General Assembly 138-9, with 41 countries abstaining. The U.S. and Israel were among the nine voting against the resolution.
A few hours before the vote, the bipartisan group of senators introduced an amendment to a defense bill that would block two years worth of assistance if the Palestinian Authority accesses the international court to complain about the actions of the Israeli Defense Force or any other Israeli institution. The legislation also threatens to close the Washington office of the Palestinian Liberation Organization unless the PLO participates in meaningful peace negotiations.
Appearing with Graham were Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer of New York and Bob Menendez of New Jersey, and Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming.
"If you make a petition to the International Criminal Court against the state of Israel . . . that will put the peace process in a ditch and undermine any chance of a peaceful solution anytime soon and we will cut off funding," Graham said.
Graham is the top Republican on the appropriations committee that dictates foreign aid. His involvement in the issue also stems from his support of Israel as a key American ally, as well as his history of active duty military service.
"Being a military person myself, I will not sit on the sidelines and use American dollars in a situation where the Palestinians make every IDF member a war criminal simply by defending the sovereignty of the state of Israel," Graham said.
Graham said he did not blame President Barack Obama's administration for the U.N. vote.
The $935 million in assistance to the Palestinians includes $495 million in 2012 that has not yet been released, and $440 million for 2013.