The vote this week by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to approve full membership for the Palestinians is another step along the treacherous road toward full UN recognition of Palestine and continued delegitimization of Israel.
Fortunately, and to its credit, the United States voted against the move, labeling it “inexplicable,” but the final tally was 107-14, with 52 abstentions, among the UNESCO membership.
The larger goal for the Palestinian Authority is statehood without negotiating with Israel, and using friendly UN bodies as a forum to pound away at Jerusalem. Most worrisome, and clearly on the PA agenda, is to seek recognition at the International Criminal Court and then bring war crime charges against Israel there.
As a result of the UNESCO vote in Paris this week, the U.S., by law, will withhold its share (22 percent) in the organization’s budget, adding up to about $70 million. Laws in Washington dating back to 1990 order a complete cutoff of U.S. funds to any UN agency that accepts Palestine as a full member. Not surprisingly, PA officials criticized the U.S. sharply rather than acknowledge that their effort violates the Oslo Accords and other agreements based on Israel and the Palestinians resolving their differences through direct negotiations.
What is galling, though not surprising, is that this latest unilateral move to boost Palestinian statehood — by avoiding rather than dealing with Israel — was hailed by some as bolstering peace efforts. In fact, though, it marks a rejection of the international community’s attempts to advance peace through direct talks between the parties.
What’s more, the vote comes when deadly rockets are being fired against Israeli cities from Gaza, underscoring the unstable nature of a deeply divided Palestinian leadership, whose more moderate voices glorify the militant prisoners released from Israeli jails and remain quiet in the wake of attacks on Israeli civilians.
UNESCO’s policies have long been anti-Israel, denying historical truths that connect Jews to the land. And as the Conference of Presidents noted this week, UNESCO’s director “recently ‘expressed concern’ that the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb, two of Judaism’s holiest sites, are to be included in Israel’s National Heritage Program.
Those who have any doubt about the willingness of Israel’s leaders to take risks for peace, only to be rebuffed by Palestinian intransigence at the top, should take note of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s new memoir, “No Higher Honor.” In it she describes the extraordinary lengths to which then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert went in 2008 to achieve an agreement, including dividing Jerusalem into two capitals. But PA President Mahmoud Abbas refused to budge.
Now he has decided to avoid Israel altogether, and the UN applauds and encourages him.