(Photo: Reuters/Mel Evans)
A bishop from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has sent a letter to Congress warning against cutting aid to the Palestinian Territories.
Bishop Richard E. Pates, chairman of the USCCB's Committee on International Justice and Peace, sent the letter on Monday in response to consideration from Congress to cut aid after the U.N. vote.
"The Palestinian Authority and President Abbas' Fatah party have renounced violence and committed themselves, as has Israel, to a two-state solution," wrote Pates. "We ask you to resist efforts to cut off needed humanitarian and development assistance to Palestinians as they build capacity for a future state."
Pates' letter came in response to a growing effort in Congress to eliminate nearly $1 billion in aid that the United States would give to the Palestinian Authority in 2012 and 2013.
Since the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to grant the Palestinian Territories an elevated status in the global body, three bills have been introduced to cut aid to the PA.
Another bill, sponsored by Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, would cut the funds the U.S. sends to the U.N. as a "punishment" for holding the vote.
"If the U.N. wants to give more power to Palestine and weaken the chances of a two-party peace deal, then the Obama administration needs to stand up for Israel, our close friend and ally," said Hatch in a statement.
"This is the type of action we've come to expect from the U.N., so it's entirely appropriate to cut off funding."
Pates argued as others have that cutting aid to the PA would do great harm to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
"Assistance to Palestinians, already heavily conditioned, is essential for humanitarian purposes and for building capacity for a future Palestinian state," wrote Pates. "Cutting aid will only harm the peace process. This is not in the interests of either Israelis or Palestinians who long for peace."
On Thursday, Nov. 29, the U.N. General Assembly voted to give Palestine the status of "nonmember observer state" in the international body, which gives the PA power to take part in debates and possibly join entities like the International Criminal Court.
The vote was overwhelmingly in favor of the move, as 138 countries voted for the elevated status, 9 including the United States voted against it, and 41 member states abstained.