Republican Senator Rand Paul introduced a bill on Wednesday that would immediately halt aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) until it halts its effort to join the International Criminal Court (ICC) to pursue war-crimes charges against Israel, The Associated Press (AP) reported.
The move comes a day after United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that the PA would become a member of the ICC as of April 1, less than a week after the PA formally presented a request to the United Nations to join the ICC.
While PA membership in the court doesn't automatically incur U.S. punishment, existing law says any Palestinian Arab case against Israel at the court would trigger an immediate cutoff of U.S. financial support.
The Kentucky senator's bill would ban assistance until the PA stops the move to become a member of the court.
On Monday, the Obama administration indicated it was reviewing its annual $440 million aid package to the PA because of the decision to join the ICC.
"We are currently sending roughly $400 million of U.S. taxpayer dollars to the Palestinian Authority," Paul said Wednesday, according to AP.
"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.
In September of 2011, a $192 million aid package was frozen by Congress after the PA submitted a failed unilateral bid for United Nations membership.
Members of Congress later released $40 million in economic and humanitarian funding for the PA, saying it is “vital to establishing and strengthening the foundations necessary for a future Palestinian state.”
In April of 2012, President Barack Obama bypassed a Congress block and signed a waiver declaring that aid to the Palestinian Authority is “important to the security interests of the United States.