Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A poison pill that is going to hurt U.S. foreign policy

I quote extensively from an article in UN Dispatch by Mark Leon Goldberg:

UNESCO member states are poised to admit Palestine as the newest member of the UN body. This is an achievement for the Palestinian leadership, which is seeking admission to various UN agencies, but potentially catastrophic news for UNESCO and American leadership at the UN. And through no fault of her own, even Beyonce may suffer. 
At issue here are two strict laws passed by the United States congress in 1994 which stipulate that “the United States shall not make any voluntary or assessed contribution to any affiliated organization of the United Nations which grants full membership as a state to any organization or group that does not have the internationally recognized attributes of statehood.”  And if that were not clear enough, a second clause clearly states that the United States may not “provide funds [to] the United Nations or any specialized agency thereof which accords the Palestine Liberation Organization the same standing as member states.”  The law authorizes no “waiver authority” by the executive branch, meaning that there is no way for President Obama to end run around this prohibition. 
In other words, if UNESCO admits Palestine as a member, the United States will be forced to effectively withdraw from the organization. That would be a huge financial blow to UNESCO, which receives 22% of its budget ($80 million) in dues payments from the United States. With that money, UNESCO promotes world press freedom, is the lead UN agency for the implementation of  the Millennium Development Goal number 2 (universal primary eduction) and administers the World Heritage site program, among other things. 
But the effect would be felt far beyond UNESCO. Several smaller UN agencies — including World Intellectual Property Organization, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization and the UN Conference on Trade and Development — tie their own membership to other UN agencies. This means that when one UN agency accepts a new member, these three UN agencies automatically accept the new member as well. Once UNESCO admits Palestine, these other UN agencies will automatically admit Palestine as well…and the United States will be forced to automatically pull out.
In a recent posting on another blog I described in more detail the situation with regard to U.S. funding of UNESCO.

I presume that the 1994 law cited above was passed as a result of lobbying by the Israeli lobby to serve as a "poison pill" that would make it far more difficult for any UN agency to admit Palestine to membership. I also assume that very few Americans were aware of the law at the time, and far fewer nearly two decades after it was passed.

If the United States withholds funding from UNESCO, WIPO, UNIDO and UNCTAD the entire global diplomatic community will be angered. Basically the Congress is saying that if we don't get our way over the expressed preferences of most of the other nations in the world, we will take our money and go it alone.

The United States needs the help of other nations now in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are involved with other nations in trying to avert a global economic crisis of huge proportions. We are working with other nations to see the results of Arab Spring are as favorable to democracy as possible, and thus to the interests of the United States and Europe. We need the support of other nations even in seeking a resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict -- the two state solution to the long state of war and occupation. And these are only a few of the areas in which we seek and need the good will of other nations, in which our diplomats seeks the support of the diplomats of our allies and at least the acquiescence of diplomats of unallied nations.

Indeed, this situation is almost certainly going to create dangers for Israel as the diplomatic effectiveness of its major ally is going to suffer and as the few UN venues in which it had gotten a relatively fair hearing will become more polarized against it.

This is bad news for the United States!

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