The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization voted 107-14 to give the imaginary nation of “Palestine” full membership today. According to Fox News, one of the delegates even shouted “Long Live Palestine!” in French at the meeting.
This was an important test vote on the Palestinians’ journey to carving a United Nations-imposed state out of Israel’s hide. Unsurprisingly, Israel’s ambassador was not pleased:
Israel’s ambassador to UNESCO Nimrod Barkan told Reuters that the vote is a tragedy.
“UNESCO deals in science, not science fiction,” he reportedly said. “They forced on UNESCO a political subject out of its competence.”
The move had immediate consequences, as the Associated Press reported just minutes ago that, as expected, the United States “says it is cutting off funding for UNESCO because of Palestinian membership vote.” The U.S. pays about 22% of UNESCO’s budget, while Israel kicks in another 3%. For those of you looking to cut outrageous government spending, the good news is that we just saved about $70 million per year.
The New York Times explains that while this decision might have been painful for the Obama Administration, it really didn’t have much choice in the matter, due to existing legislation:
The Obama administration, which values its membership in Unesco, tried unsuccessfully to keep the vote from taking place, while Irina Bokova, the American-supported director-general of the organization, traveled to Washington to meet with congressional leaders and ask them to alter the law.
Legislation dating from 1990 and 1994 mandates a complete cutoff of American financing to any United Nations agency that accepts the Palestinians as a full member. State Department lawyers judged that there was no leeway in the legislation, and no possibility of a waiver, so the United States contribution for 2011 and future years will not be paid.
Addressing Unesco’s general conference after the vote, the American ambassador to the organization, David T. Killion, said that the United States “remains deeply committed to Unesco,” which he called a “vital organization.” But he repeatedly called the vote on Monday “premature” and said the United States would seek other means to support the agency, Mr. Killion said, though he did not offer specifics.
(Emphases mine.) So, maybe it would be best not to count that $70 million in U.S. taxpayer savings just yet.