We’ve made the threat. Now it’s time to make good on it.
The Palestinian Arab campaign to unilaterally declare statehood has been pushing for over a month for full membership in UNESCO, the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. Seeking membership in collateral organizations, where the US can’t exercise a Perm-5 veto, is a method of generating momentum for de facto recognition of statehood. As pointed out by many, in numerous forums, the unilateral campaign being prosecuted by the Palestinian Authority (PA, led by Mahmoud Abbas) circumvents the negotiation process with Israel. In doing that, it violate the Oslo Accords and invalidates everything both sides have agreed to in the years since.
In early October, Secretary Hillary Clinton lambasted the decision by UNESCO to allow a vote on the question – a vote that has just been held, in spite of strong US objections. According to Fox News (emphasis added):
Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton said the vote signals weakness in U.S. diplomacy.
“So ineffective was Obama administration diplomacy, that France voted in favor of Palestinian membership, and Britain and Japan abstained. U.S. statutes, dating from 1990, now require a full cutoff of U.S. funding, which Congress should insist occur immediately. Should the administration seek changes in the applicable statutory provisions that would eliminate or weaken the funding cutoff, Congress should reject them,” Bolton said.
Fox quotes Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, as determined to cut off funding in accordance with US law.
But the Obama administration may or may not take summary action. The federal executive is not necessarily committing a prosecutable or impeachable offense by failing to observe the restrictions put on funds by Congress or by previous administrations. Certainly, many Americans – probably a majority – would consider it wrong, and even disgusting, for the Obama administration to not make good on the funding threat, given the outright provocation and the irresponsible, confrontational stance of the PA. But it is not clear what Congress can do to withhold the funds if the president decides to allocate them to UNESCO anyway. The threat of budgetary retaliation is cleanly usable only when there is an expectation that there will be an official federal budget, voted on and signed. There are ample reasons to suspect we will not have another one until after Obama leaves office.
We can hope Obama will act in accordance with longstanding US law. That Mahmoud Abbas intends his statehood campaign to bypass the need for binding agreements with Israel has been made crystal clear, most recently in a 23 October interview translated by MEMRI. Of recognizing the Jewish state of Israel, one of Israel’s requirements, he had this to say (emphasis added):
Mahmoud Abbas: “First of all, let me make something clear about the story of the ‘Jewish state.’
“They started talking to me about the ‘Jewish state’ only two years ago, discussing it with me at every opportunity, every forum I went to – Jewish or non-Jewish – asking: ‘What do you think about the “Jewish state”?’ I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I will never recognize the Jewishness of the state, or a ‘Jewish state.’” [...]
Abbas also endorsed the kidnapping of Israel soldier Gilad Shalit as “a good thing”:
Interviewer: “Don’t you think that it was the resistance that managed to liberate a thousand prisoners?
“Negotiations must always be accompanied by a measure of force. There can be no negotiations without resistance. This has been shown by the experience of people – in Ireland and all countries.”
Mahmoud Abbas: “That’s true, but our circumstances are different. We are not able to wage military resistance.
“Hamas kidnapped – or rather, captured – a soldier, and managed to keep him for five years, and that is a good thing.
“We don’t deny it. On the contrary, it’s a good thing that on a small strip of land, 40 × 7 kilometers, they were able to keep him and hide him.” [...]
Fatah (Abbas’ party) and Hamas made much of their rapprochement and the unity of their parties as representatives of a “Palestinian State” earlier this year. Rather than repudiating Hamas and its terrorist acts, Abbas continues – in Arabic language media – to embrace them. (Although blogger Challah Hu Akbar no longer posts regularly, you can check his blog for daily updates to the number of rockets fired by Hamas at Israel. There have been 53 so far in October.)
An organization of the UN has, over the strenuous objections of the United States, endorsed terrorism and the campaign plan of a PA leader who is determined to gain statehood without negotiating in good faith with Israel. Time for the US to do what we said we’d do.
*UPDATE* According to Voice of America and Fox, the State Department has announced that the next disbursement to UNESCO, $60 million due in November, will not be made. The DOS spokeswoman said the administration would consult with Congress on how to move forward, pointing out that US membership in UNESCO could be challenged based on non-payment. This will bear watching.