In a dramatic policy shift, President Donald Trump is reportedly preparing two executive orders that would halt US funding to the UN and other bodies that grant full membership to the Palestinian Authority and the PLO, the New York Times reported Wednesday.
The orders would reduce the United States’ role in international bodies, including the United Nations, and start a review process that would seek to potentially withdraw from multilateral treaties, the report said. Trump has been spending his first days in office signing a series of executive actions, including on abortion, immigration and border control.
According to the report in the New York Times, a first draft order, titled “Auditing and Reducing US Funding of International Organizations,” would drastically reduce or terminate funding for UN agencies or other bodies that meet any one of several criteria, including if said agencies “give full membership to the Palestinian Authority or Palestine Liberation Organization,” support abortion programs, or have engaged in any activity that skirts international sanctions against Iran or North Korea.
The new Trump order would also require eliminating all American taxpayer payments to an organization that “is controlled or substantially influenced by any state that sponsors terrorism,” or considered to be engaging in the persecution of minorities or any other form of human rights violation, the Times said.
Those criteria apart, Trump’s order also calls for ratifying “at least a 40 percent overall decrease” in aid the US provides to international institutions.
The draft order calls to establish a committee to determine if the US should defund a particular agency or institution, with specific attention to be paid to UN peacekeeping operations, the International Criminal Court, development funding to countries that oppose “important United States policies,” and the UN Population fund, which manages reproductive health programs, including abortions.
The State Department is reviewing a last-minute decision by former Secretary of State John Kerry to send $221 million dollars to the Palestinians late last week over the objections of congressional Republicans.
The department said Tuesday it would look at the payment, one of the Obama administration's final acts in office, and might make adjustments to ensure it comports with the Trump administration's priorities.
Kerry formally notified Congress that State would release the money Friday morning, just hours before President Donald Trump's inauguration.
"I was tracking President Obama's 11th-hour moves on the Palestinians, and this issue never came up once ... Most analysts and observers didn't think Obama would or could do this," Dr. Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies told Business Insider.
Congress had initially approved the Palestinian funding in budget years 2015 and 2016, with the US Agency for International Development sending the Palestinians $355 million in 2015.
But at least two GOP lawmakers Ed Royce of California, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Kay Granger of Texas, who sits on the House Appropriations Committee had placed holds on the funds as the Palestinian Authority had pursued "a unilateral tract towards statehood and they were not trying to work with Israel," said Schanzer.
Congressional holds are generally respected by the executive branch but are not legally binding after funds have been allocated. "Most analysts and observers didn’t think Obama would or could do this," said Schanzer.
"The easiest way to sum it up is that Congress had been looking at various behaviors from Palestine — unilateral attempts at statehood, corruption, incitement of violence, and paying salaries to people in jail for terrorism — and that's why the hold has been there," said Schanzer.
Granger released a statement Tuesday saying, "I am deeply disappointed that President Obama defied congressional oversight and released $221 million to the Palestinian territories."