America Again Marginalizes Itself on the Diplomatic World Stage After UNESCO Vote

Cross-posted from Tikkun Daily.

On Monday, the United States earned two dubious distinctions. First, it became one of only 14 nations (out of 173) to vote against Palestinian admission into UNESCO – the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Second, it became the only nation to vindictively punish UNESCO for admitting Palestine as a full member by immediately cutting off U.S. funding, which comprises 22 percent of the organization’s budget, or $70 million annually.

This funding cut was made due to U.S. legislation, over 15 years old, mandating a “complete cutoff of American financing to any United Nations agency that accepts the Palestinians as a full member.” However, those who have attempted to defend America’s move based upon a 15-year-old legal trigger – particularly when new legislation can always be written – fail to acknowledge the damage America is inflicting upon itself as it presses forward with an unbalanced foreign policy approach via-a-vis the Israelis and Palestinians.

As Daniel Levy notes in Foreign Policy:

America’s objections to the Palestinian move ring hollow across much of the world, and especially the strategically vital Middle East region. Its withholding of UN payments…is nothing short of a combination of the absurd and the vindictive. As former Senator Tim Wirth has pointed out this will be sapping to America’s soft power capacity. And if it continues, there may be more practical consequences, for instance, in regards to loss of American influence at the International Atomic Energy Agency and the World Intellectual Property Organization.

As the Obama administration continues with what Levy terms as an “Israel-centric” diplomatic approach to the region, it continues to marginalize and distance America from much of the world, including some of its strongest allies. France, one of nine UN Security Council members to vote in favor of admitting the Palestinians into UNESCO as a full member, is the starkest example.

In fact, if the UNESCO votes by Security Council members are replicated when Palestine is voted upon for admission into the United Nations as a full member in the UNSC, the United States will be forced (as it has promised it will do) to use its veto, a move that would even further isolate America on the world stage.

Levy breaks down the votes as follows:

If one were to extrapolate the Security Council vote from today’s UNESCO vote, then one comes out with the following result: 9 in favor (China, Russia, Brazil, India, South Africa, France, Lebanon, Gabon, and Nigeria); 2 against (U.S. and Germany), and 4 abstentions (UK, Portugal, Bosnia, and Colombia). If that were replicated in the UNSC, then the U.S. veto would come into play.


With the UNESCO vote, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has scored a major diplomatic victory and stalled some of the momentum Hamas gained in its prisoner swap deal with Israel. Indeed, Abbas and the PA intend to continue this momentum by requesting entry into 16 additional UN agencies, including the World Health Organization, Intellectual Property Organization and the Atomic Agency.

In each instance, we already know how the Obama administration will respond – with ringing disapproval.

How will it look on the world stage for America, with Hillary Clinton – a staunch defender of health care and a champion of global health initiatives – look when the U.S. expresses dismay at the Palestinians’ desire to be a part of the World Health Organization?

The answer is the question.


To read more pieces like this, sign up for Tikkun Daily’s free newsletter, sign up for Tikkun Magazine emails or visit us online. You can also like Tikkun on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.


About David Harris-Gershon

David Harris-Gershon – a blogger for Tikkun magazine and a freelance writer on Israel, the Middle East and America’s role in the region – has recently published work in The Jerusalem Post, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, AlterNet, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Colorado Review and elsewhere. His memoir – What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife? – is forthcoming from Oneworld Publications (2013). He received his MFA from the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, and has worked extensively as an educator, teaching creative writing and Israeli History / Jewish Studies in university and high school classrooms. Follow David on Twitter @David_EHG

Posted on November 1, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Hi David: I think the US position is totally wrong–supporting the ‘superior-state’ Israel over
    what’s left of Palestine. As a Statesider, I want no part of the lopsided ripoff by Israel of na-
    tive people who just want to live unmolested by a theocratic, gangster-like, unethical, scoff-
    law minority who treat their own people like ‘freiers’ repressing them with GIs and private
    goons-with-guns…Perhaps it is now time for professional, reasonable ILs and Pals to work
    out the boundry, ports-of-entry, practical and essential land-swaps…Likud and the other
    IL parties vs Fattah, Hamas, and a few others is madness–the pros work out the opening
    ‘facts-in-the-sandbox’ then the agency-level bothsiders clear up most practical concerns…
    When these items are resolved, ALL ILs and ALL Pals age 13 and up VOTE: The Gov’t of
    Israel and Gov’t of Palestine can then move on toward a REAL peace–anything less isn’t
    worth a damn…Aaron Allen…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: