WASHINGTON — Republican Sen. Rand Paul introduced a bill on Wednesday that would immediately halt U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority until it withdraws its bid to join the International Criminal Court to pursue war-crimes charges against Israel.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' recent turn to the international court at The Hague marked a major policy shift and transformed his relations with Israel from strained to openly hostile. The Palestinians want to pressure Israel into withdrawing from the territories and agreeing to Palestinian statehood.
U.S. law currently says that any Palestinian case against Israel at the court would trigger an immediate end to U.S. aid, but that Palestinian membership in the court, by itself, would not. The Kentucky senator's bill would ban assistance until the Palestinian Authority withdraws its request to join the court.
"We are currently sending roughly $400 million of U.S. taxpayer dollars to the Palestinian Authority," Paul said. "Certainly, groups that threaten Israel cannot be allies of the U.S. I will continue to do everything in my power to make sure this president and this Congress stop treating Israel's enemies as American allies."
Paul, a likely Republican presidential contender, generally favors a smaller American footprint in the world and in 2011 offered a budget plan that called for ending foreign aid to all nations, including Israel.
On a visit to Israel in 2013, Paul gave a speech calling for a gradual reduction of foreign aid — despite Israel's status as one of the top recipients of American assistance. The country gets about $3 billion a year in military aid from the U.S. He says even Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu has said that he welcomes a day when Israel is independent of American aid.