Image via WikipediaWaPo reports that UNESCO voted Monday to admit Palestine into the organization as its newest member, and the United States promptly responded by cutting off funding for the agency.
Acting under a legal requirement to cut U.S. funds to any U.N. agency that recognizes a Palestinian state, the State Department on Monday announced that the United States has stopped funding the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization because of the vote. Department spokesman Victoria Nuland told reporters that the Obama administration would not make a planned $60 million payment to the agency due this month.
The UNESCO membership bid, which required approval by two-thirds of the agency’s General Conference, passed by a vote of 107 to 14, with 52 abstentions.
Huge cheers erupted in the Paris meeting hall when the Palestinian membership was approved, news agencies reported. France cast a surprise yes vote, drawing applause from the delegates. The United States, Israel, Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany were among those voting no.
The State Department Spokesperson ran around, around and around the room with this one and not just on UNESCO, but also WIPO. Excerpts below:
QUESTION: Quite apart from the congressional lot, you’re opposed to the Palestinians having membership in the World Intellectual Property Organization?
MS. NULAND: We are.
QUESTION: You are?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Because the Palestinians don’t have any intellectual property, or because their intellectual property, because they’re not a state, is somehow less protectable or less worthy of protection?
MS. NULAND: Because this is a cascade effect of the decision in the UNESCO which we consider —
QUESTION: What does protecting intellectual property have to do – anything to do with statehood?
MS. NULAND: It has to do with the declaration of state status in UNESCO, which cascades into WIPO, that we are opposed to.
QUESTION: I used to think that this government, my government, had some intellect itself, but this just seems ridiculous. You are going to oppose them in some kind of international weather organization as well? The Civil Aviation Organization?
MS. NULAND: Our position on this with regard to all the UN agencies is the same.
QUESTION: You can – you think that there is somewhere – somewhere in this building that someone can draw a intellectually responsible and acceptable argument that membership in the World Intellectual Property Organization should not be granted to the Palestinians because they are not a state, because their intellectual property, because they’re not a state, is somehow less deserving of protection than anyone else’s, including the Syrians, including whoever else?
MS. NULAND: Matt, the move here is not with regard to the aspiration that we all have for the Palestinians to have access to and full rights of all of these UN organizations. The concern here is trying to shortcut the process of statehood, trying to establish statehood through the back door —
QUESTION: But see, that’s the —
MS. NULAND: Can I finish my point, please?
MS. NULAND: Thank you. Rather than establishing true statehood the way it has to be done, which is in direct negotiations with their neighbor. And from that can flow all of the benefits of these organizations.
QUESTION: But not even the Palestinians themselves say that this is a way to statehood. They —
MS. NULAND: Well, but what has been granted here —
QUESTION: They know that this is not – this does not mean statehood.
MS. NULAND: What has been granted here in UNESCO is Palestinian membership and statehood status. That’s what’s of concern.
QUESTION: I’m sorry, and the Palestinian vote on that?
MS. NULAND: Excuse me?
QUESTION: The Palestinians didn’t vote for this. A hundred and seven other countries, including some of your best friends, voted for this. The Palestinians didn’t vote for it; they just simply put it up for – they put it up for a vote. They didn’t have a vote on this.
MS. NULAND: This began —
QUESTION: You lost.
MS. NULAND: Matt —
QUESTION: Why —
MS. NULAND: Are you asking me a question that you’d like me to answer, or are you just going to have an argument with me today?
QUESTION: No, no. I’m – I want to know why you think, and everyone else – which is a position that everyone else disagrees with, that this is somehow – that this hurts the peace process or hurts the ability of the Palestinians to get a state, short of just upsetting the Israelis?
MS. NULAND: Start with the premise this process in UNESCO began with a Palestinian petition for membership, which we thought was ill-advised and ill-considered, and which we so said to the Palestinians at the time. So the Palestinians made a move here that we didn’t think was conducive to the environment for the talks or conducive to getting us back to the table. That is our concern. We want to get the Palestinians their state. It’s only going to happen if we can get these parties back to the table. We have to create an environment that gets them back to the table, and this is not helpful.
QUESTION: Okay. But you accept that 107 countries disagreed with you.
MS. NULAND: A hundred and seven countries made their own decision. We disagree with them.
QUESTION: Right. Exactly. So, I mean, isn’t it maybe – doesn’t that tell you anything, that if you add in the abstentions, which included the Brits, your special ally, who abstained, then 159 countries disagreed with you?
This is not the end of the story. The Cable
reported that the Obama administration
is required by existing U.S. law to cut off funding for any international
organization that grants the Palestinians full membership.
UNESCO also grants the Palestinians membership in the World
Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the United
Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). The United
States is not a member of UNIDO, but will be forced to stop contributing to
But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. The
Palestinians could seek membership in more prominent international
organizations, which could result in the United States defunding or even
withdrawing from institutions such as the World Health Organization and the
International Atomic Energy Agency. The AP
today that the Palestinian Authority was examining seeking membership in 16
more U.N. organizations.
Read more here.
So, it is possible to see the US defund 16 U.N. organizations in the foreseeable future. And that is going to enhance U.S. positions from A-Z, how?