U.S. Senator Threatens Aid Cut To Palestinians Over ICC Move

YERUSHALAYIM (Reuters) -
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R) seen at the president’s residence in Yerushalayim. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R) seen at the president’s residence in Yerushalayim. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Palestinians could lose annual U.S. aid if they file a lawsuit against Israel at the International Criminal Court which they joined this month over American and Israeli protests, a senior U.S. Republican senator said.

Lindsey Graham, part of a seven-member delegation of senators visiting Israel, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, said existing U.S. legislation “would cut off aid to the Palestinians if they filed a complaint” against Israel.

At a news conference in Yerushalayim on Monday, Graham called the Palestinian step “a [distortion] of the role of the ICC. I find it incredibly offensive.”

“We will push back strongly to register our displeasure. It is already part of our law that would require us to stop funding if they actually bring a case,” said Graham, of South Carolina.

U.S. President Barack Obama’s Democratic administration has said it does not believe Palestine is a sovereign state and therefore does not qualify to be part of the ICC, but has not explicitly threatened to withhold aid.

Any cut in U.S. funds could make it hard for the Palestinian self-rule authority in Yehuda and Shomron and Gaza to survive. The U.S. supplies more than $400 million annually to the Palestinian Authority. Israel has frozen a monthly transfer of some $120 million in tax revenues it collects for the Palestinians.

Graham urged the Palestinians to re-evaluate ICC membership, saying he supported their aspirations for statehood but opposed joining the court as a “provocative step” against Israel.