A Haunting Vote at the UN

"Palestine" admitted to UNESCO, but consequences await.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki

In its own special version of a Halloween "trick or treat," the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) became the first UN agency to admit Palestine as a full member since the Palestinians launched their full court press for total recognition as a UN member state.

The final UNESCO Halloween vote tally was 107 votes in favor, 14 against and 52 abstentions. The United States, Canada and Germany voted against Palestinian membership in UNESCO. France joined the countries that voted in favor. Britain abstained.

UNESCO provided the Palestinians with their undeserved Halloween treat. But the trick will be against UNESCO - a loss of major funding from the United States, as explained below.

The Palestinian bid for full membership in the United Nations as a whole is currently before the Security Council, where it is not expected to succeed this year. However, by piling up individual UN agency memberships, which can be approved by those agencies even for non-members of the entire United Nations system, the Palestinians are hoping to create momentum towards achieving their ultimate objective. The chain reaction will start with Palestinian bids to gain membership in the World Intellectual Property Organization, the UN Industrial Development Organization (in which the United States is not a member), and the UN Conference on Trade and Development, which admit entities that belong to another specialized UN agency such as UNESCO.

Sabri Saidam, adviser to Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, declared:

This is a historic moment, a moment of jubilation on route to full recognition of Palestinian independence and self-determination, that's equally a call for reconsideration of positions to those wavering on the Security Council vote. It is also a foundation stone for what's to come at the (Security Council) and other international organizations.

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, speaking after the vote, said the "admission of a new member state is a mark of respect and confidence." Bokova falsely believes that a government which lacks the basic prerequisites of statehood under international law deserves membership in her organization as a "mark of respect and confidence." Abbas's government does not control all the territory it purports to represent, and there are no internationally recognized borders negotiated with Israel in accordance with Security Council Resolution 242. Moreover, a government contemplating "unity" with Hamas, a terrorist organization dedicated to the destruction of a member state of the United Nations, deserves neither the respect nor confidence of the international community.

UN Ambassador Susan Rice, piercing through the nonsense coming from UNESCO, tweeted: "Today's vote to grant Palestinian membership in UNESCO is no substitute for direct negotiations, but it is deeply damaging to UNESCO."

David Killion, the U.S. permanent representative to UNESCO, said the United States "cannot accept the premature Palestinian admission for membership in a United Nations specialized agency such as UNESCO."

Under U.S. law, the Obama administration must cut off funding for UNESCO, as acknowledged by State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.

"The United States will refrain from making contributions to UNESCO," Nuland said. This action stems from a provision of the U.S. code that states: "No funds authorized to be appropriated by this Act or any other Act shall be available for the United Nations or any specialized agency thereof which accords the Palestine Liberation Organization the same standing as member states."

The Palestine Liberation Organization is technically the Palestinian entity that represents the Palestinians in the United Nations.

The U.S. cut-off of funding will blow a big hole in UNESCO's budget since the U.S. has been paying 22% of its budget - approximately $80 million in annual funding. A $60 million payment to UNESCO due in November will be the first casualty of the cut-off.

UNESCO was fully advised in advance of its impulsive decision to admit Palestine as a member state that its gravy train would be in jeopardy. Nevertheless, after her vain attempt to justify the UNESCO vote to admit such a dysfunctional entity as a member of equal status with the United States, UNESCO Director-General Bokova childishly complained about the financial consequences. "I believe it is the responsibility of all of us to make sure that UNESCO does not suffer unduly," she said, whining about losing funding from "our largest contributor, the United States."

At a press conference at UN headquarters in New York that I attended, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon made the same point.

Their pleas should be ignored. UNESCO is reverting to the same kind of irresponsible behavior that led to a U.S. boycott for almost two decades until it was finally ended by President George W. Bush in 2003.

In November 2010, UNESCO had already foreshadowed its pro-Palestinian agenda by adopting several proposals by Arab states reclassifying Jewish historical landmarks as "Palestinian sites." This attempt to use the UN's cultural agency to blur or obliterate the Jewish people's historical connection to their homeland reinforces Abbas's oft-repeated refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state. A little more than a week ago, he proclaimed that "I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I will never recognize the Jewishness of the state, or a 'Jewish state.'" Yet he points to the UN General Assembly partition resolution (Resolution 181), which explicitly recognizes a "Jewish State," as a legal justification for his bid for Palestinian UN member state status.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, had it right when she said the UNESCO cut-off of funding should be just the beginning. "Congress must pass pending U.N. reform legislation to cut off funding to any U.N. entity that grants any upgraded status to 'Palestine,'" said Rep. Ros-Lehtinen. "Such strong action is the only way to deter other U.N. bodies from following in UNESCO's footsteps, and to prevent U.S. taxpayer dollars from paying for biased entities at the U.N."

Rash actions must have significant consequences or the rash actions will simply multiply. The United Nations has been misusing American taxpayers' money for too long. It is time to push back.

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