Senators waiting on Palestinian aid pending review of ICC moves


WASHINGTON (JTA ) — Three in four U.S. senators pledged not to support assistance to the Palestinian Authority until the Obama administration reviews the admittance of Palestine to the International Criminal Court.

“Current law prohibits economic assistance to the Palestinian Authority if the Palestinians initiate an ICC investigation of Israeli nationals or ‘actively support such an investigation,’” said the letter sent Thursday by 75 senators to Secretary of State John Kerry.

“Although we believe it is in the interest of the United States for urgent humanitarian assistance to continue to be provided to the Palestinian people, we will not support assistance to the Palestinian Authority while you undertake a review of this matter,” it said.

It is not clear that the Palestinian Authority violated U.S. law with its actions. The ICC prosecutor, not the Palestinians, initiated the preliminary examination of whether crimes were committed during last summer’s Gaza war, and a formal investigation has yet to be launched. Typically it takes years for examinations to become investigations.

However, some legal experts argue that by granting the ICC jurisdiction in its territory, the Palestinian Authority may be legally understood to have “initiated” an investigation.

The exemption in the letter for humanitarian assistance “to the Palestinian people” means much of the $500 million in annual U.S. aid will likely continue, although a cutoff could affect security assistance for the Palestinians.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee praised the letter, which was initiated by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

“The Palestinian effort to seek an ICC investigation of Israel is a direct attempt to delegitimize Israel’s right to self-defense against Hamas terror,” the lobby said in a statement.

Recommended from JTA