Hatch seeks cutoff of U.N. funding over Palestine stance
International affairs • Utah senator wants to sanction U.N. after vote on Palestine.
Published: November 30, 2012 04:45PM
Updated: April 8, 2013 11:31PM
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Tribune file photo Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

Sen. Orrin Hatch wants to cut all U.S. funding to the United Nations in retaliation for its recognition of Palestine as a nonvoting state, but the White House has no plans to strike back at Palestine or the U.N.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Friday the administration opposes withdrawing aid to the Palestinian Authority and said there are no other consequences that he could talk about under consideration.

The United States was one of nine nations to vote against boosting Palestine from an observer entity to an observer state, the others being Israel, Canada, Panama, the Czech Republic and four small nations among a group of Pacific islands. In all, 138 countries supported the move, including the European powers of France and Spain. Palestinian leaders hope the enhanced status will give it more leverage as it negotiates with Israel over territory and other matters.

The White House believes any breakthroughs will happen only in face-to-face negotiations, not in international bodies.

Hatch, R-Utah, worries Palestinian leaders could try to level charges against Israel in the International Criminal Court, adding fresh hostility to one of the world’s most intractable conflicts.

“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,” Hatch said in a statement Friday. “This is the type of action we’ve come to expect from the U.N., so it’s entirely appropriate to cut off funding.”

Because U.S. funding of the international organization comes through many federal agencies, it’s difficult to put a number on the total, though various reports put the amount at between $4 billion and $6 billion.

Hatch offered his amendment to a defense-authorization bill earlier this week, before Thursday’s U.N. vote. The Senate has yet to debate or vote on his proposal and with the high number of amendments offered on the bill, it may not.

It is identical to legislation Hatch pushed a year ago. Among the co-sponsors of Hatch’s amendment is his Utah GOP colleague, Sen. Mike Lee.

Meanwhile, the Senate late Thursday approved an amendment to the same defense bill sponsored by Lee. That amendment would prohibit the government from indefinitely detaining citizens and permanent legal residents even if they are suspected of being involved in terrorism, as long as they are arrested on American soil. Instead, they would face criminal charges and have access to a trial, the same rights afforded to those suspected of other crimes.

Lee joined Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to propose the amendment, which passed 67-29. Hatch voted against it.

“Once again we prove that increasing security does not have to result in diminished liberty,” Lee said after the vote. “We have reaffirmed our constitutional values and shown we are committed to being both free and safe.”

mcanham@sltrib.com

Twitter: @mattcanham