Arab League officials are promising to provide $200 million to the Palestinian Authority (PA) if a congressional hold on similar U.S. funding continues.
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., placed a hold on the transfer of $200 million in aid to the PA in response to the Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations. Reports indicate similar action was taken to freeze the aid by two other committees since August.
A bipartisan congressional group made clear during a September hearing that a bid for U.N. recognition would lead to severe consequences for the PA.
"Congress will not sit idly by. The U.S. will likely reconsider its assistance program for the PA and other aspects of U.S.-Palestinian relations should the Palestinians choose to move forward in requesting a vote on statehood," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., wrote in the New York Daily News last month.
Palestinian and Arab leaders strongly criticized the freeze. Ghassan Khatib, chief spokesman for the PA, called the move a "collective punishment" on the Palestinian people.
"The Arabs will assist the Palestinian Authority," Arab League head Nabil al-Arabi said Sunday. This will be the strongest answer (to the U.S. threat)." And Nimer Hammad, a top adviser to President Mahmoud Abbas, said that if U.S. financial aid to the Palestinians was conditioned on recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, "we won't do so at all."
Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, formally requested Palestinian membership during a speech at the U.N. on September 23rd. Ros-Lehtinen called Abbas' speech a move away from peace.
"Abu Mazen could have used his speech to grasp Israel's outstretched hand," she said. "Instead, he chose to double down on Ramallah's cynical, anti-Israel, anti-peace course. It was very telling that Abu Mazen demonized Israel in vicious terms and described the events of Israel's creation in 1948 as a 'catastrophe.' And when he condemned 'terrorism,' he specifically referenced Israeli behavior, while saying not one word about Hamas or Palestinian attacks against Israeli civilians."
The U.N. Security Council is reviewing the bid. The Obama administration has promised to veto the move but opposes the freeze of PA funds.