June 28, 2011 | The Hill

Are Taxpayers Funding Palestinians’ Dangerous Unilateralism?

The Associated Press reported yesterday that “Palestinian delegations will make the rounds of nearly a dozen countries to try to drum up more support for their bid to have the United Nations recognize a Palestinian state.”

In the coming weeks, Palestinian representatives will proposition Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and several other undisclosed countries that have not yet endorsed the Palestinian plan for a unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) at the U.N. General Assembly in September.

These visits come after PLO spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi pursued similar objectives in capitals across Europe, and senior Palestinian official Nabil Shaath went on lobby missions to Armenia, Moldova, the Philippines, Mexico, and Colombia. Later this summer, Palestinian ambassadors will all fly to Madrid to discuss their European strategy.

Here’s a question for Congress: where is the travel money coming from? Diplomatic junkets don’t grow on trees.

In late May, Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad complained that the Palestinian Authority was facing a financial crisis, because donor nations were delaying or withholding funds.

This has not been the case with U.S. funds, which reportedly continue to flow. Thus, it is reasonable to assume that Congress has been paying for the Palestinians’ diplomatic end run around Washington.

Some lawmakers have already registered their disapproval for a Palestinian declaration of statehood this fall. They view the non-binding U.N. resolution as reckless, because it needlessly heightens tensions with the Israelis, and could spark a new armed conflict over the territories in dispute. Other legislators seek to deny funds to the Hamas-Fatah unity government, if it ever comes to fruition.

The U.S. forks over an estimated $600 million to the Palestinians each year. Has Washington inadvertently allowed some of these taxpayer dollars to be spent in pursuit of a dangerous declaration of Palestinian statehood at the U.N. in September? Congress should find out.

Jonathan Schanzer is vice president of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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