In their continued bid to walk around peace talks and claim statehood
by recognition in the United Nations, Palestine today won a victory
by being accepted into UNESCO as a full member, 107 nations voting in favor and 14 voting against, with 52 abstaining. The United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization receives 22% of its annual budget from the United States and 3% of its annual budget from Israel. Federal law
made in 1990 and 1994 mandates that the United States stop financing any part of the United Nations that accepts Palestinians as full members, and the Department of State has confirmed that there is no leeway in the legislation, no matter how much President Obama likes UNESCO--it is going to lose one quarter of its funding, starting now, and will subsequently have to begin laying off staff and shutting down offices around the world unless other nations move to help cover the expenses.
The vote also revealed more fully to us which countries are siding where. Voting alongside the United States and Israel at UNESCO were nations like Germany, Canada, Australia, Sweden, and the Netherlands. Opposing us were France and Belgium, and then the expected votes of China, Russia, India, Brazil, and the vast majority of Africa and the Middle East. Most of Western civilization abstained from voting, including Britain, Japan, Italy, and Poland; while Latvia and Romania abstained, they initially voted against Palestine in executive committee.
Bolstered by this move, Palestine will continue to go around to various United Nations organizations and seek full membership. This action by the Palestinians comes at a time when Americans are even more skeptical of the United Nations and foreign entanglements than usual, and when our politicians are looking for any way to trim things out of the budget--with unpopular foreign aid (however small a part of our budget it may actually be) being a popular thing to add to the chopping block. As the primary source of funding for the United Nations, the United States could potentially start gutting the international organization if Palestine continues to be successful in this bid for statehood. It will be interesting to see how President Obama will straddle the line between his love for the United Nations and the combination of federal law, American support for Israel, and security in the Middle East forcing him to defund various parts of the United Nations. While I have a feeling he's just itching to sign waivers exempting the United Nations from the law, the political reality of already being an unpopular president going into a reelection year will probably compel him not to come across as joining nations like Russia and Iran in supporting Palestine over Israel.