Aaron Goldstein made mention of the United States’ decision to withdraw funding from UNESCO, and provided brief, but helpful context of our choppy history with this specialized agency.
This admission sets an interesting precedent — and will guarantee President Mahmoud Abbas’s efforts to seek international recognition within other U.N. organs and before other international bodies.
First of all, we should recognize this tactic for what it is. Of course, President Abbas did not want UNESCO recognition to provide much needed World Heritage funding to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. This crusade for international acknowledgement is merely a thinly veiled campaign to cement Fatah’s political interests leading up to impending presidential and parliamentary elections. U.N. statehood was always a forlorn hope, but Abbas has bolstered much needed domestic support before elections, set to be held sometime before next May.
Hamas won a critical propaganda victory when they negotiated for the return of 1,027 Palestinians for a single Israeli soldier…hero that he is…and Abbas will need to keep pace. My guess is that given his UNESCO success, he may try his luck with other international organizations to match his rival’s recent PR victory.
Secondly, we must recognize that this undertaking will have significant policy ramifications for the United States.
Obviously, it doesn’t really matter if Palestine wants to join International Criminal Court — where the U.S. and Israel don’t participate. But given the recent U.N. experience, there’s no logical reason to assume Palestinians won’t be able to marshal sufficient votes to be recognized at other U.N. agencies — such as the nuclear watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – or financial organizations such as the World Trade Organization (WTO).
To be clear, I stand against these attempts to circumvent bilateral talks with Israel. This is the wrong deal at the wrong time, for all parties — the Palestinians, included. Likewise, I’m cynical about our involvement in many international institutions — especially the U.N.
However, I’m similarly uneasy about the potential forfeit of America’s ability to help monitor nuclear proliferation in a state like Iran, or our own financial interests to supervise and liberalize world trade.
I sincerely hope Congress takes this into consideration before the next Palestinian effort, rumored to be at the World Health Organization (WHO).
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