The U.S. didn’t waste any time cutting funding for UNESCO after the United Nations devoted to promoting education, culture and science granted the Palestinians full membership.
Currently the U.S. covers approximately one fifth of the UNESCO costs but by cutting that funding it will be even harder for the American agenda at UNESCO to be accomplished.
That agenda is not just about protecting previous cultural sites, or teaching Afghan women, children and even police officers to read, or about helping to continue the Tsunami early warning system. It’s also about protecting Israel.
The irony of the decision to cut funding is that UNESCO is one of the few United Nations groups where the U.S. finds a sympathetic ear on issues related to Israel. UNESCO is actively working with America to promote tolerance and is working to deepen understanding of the Holocaust in countries where people don’t even believe it existed.
Even more important U.S. interests will be at stake if the World Intellectual Property Organization grants Palestinians membership, which as an affiliate of UNESCO they are almost certain to do. That is where you start directly encountering obvious and significant interests to American business. When an intellectual property dispute involves the Googles or the Apples of the world and China, it is critical for the U.S. to be a member of good standing, which it will not be if Congress cuts funding.
Even more concerning is when the Palestinians make good on their promise to apply for membership to other U.N. bodies, like the International Atomic Energy Organization, which the U.S. views as critical to curbing Iran’s nuclear program. Or the World Heath Organization, where US money spent goes directly to keeping people alive.
A cut in funding to these UN agencies will mean more than a loss of U.S. influence and prestige. It has the potential to affect American national security in ways lawmakers may not have envisioned when it passed the legislation as a punitive measure.
Unless Congress grants President Obama waiver authority to continue funding to specific U.N. agencies that grant Palestinian membership, it won’t just be the Palestinians who are punished.