US to cut UNESCO funding over Palestine membership vote

Hours after UNESCO votes to grant membership to Palestinians, the US moves to cut its funding of the UN organization.

The Obama Administration demonstrated this evening that even the pettiest grudge by Israel outweighs in its eyes the cultural, scientific and educational needs of all its other allies combined, as it moved to withdraw its share – $70 million – from the UNESCO budget. The administration is legally bound to commit this folly, true; but rather than stress that the incredibly disproportionate move reflects US law but not US policy, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland chose to attack UNESCO itself.

According to Nuland, the move to afford full membership to Palestinians was “regrettable, premature and undermines our shared goal to a comprehensive, just and lasting peace.” She didn’t explain how or why this was the case, considering the peace process is as dead as a dodo and will remain so at least until Obama is reelected in 2012. The move also apparently “creates tensions when all of us should be concerning our efforts to get the parties back to the table.” I can think of a few more things that make Palestinians – and concerned Israelis – unnerved, but apparently it’s the UNESCO bid.

The US has a few weeks to persuade Congress not to embarrass its country internationally and to alter the law to some effect (or, presumably, to blackmail UNESCO into kicking Palestine out, which is even less likely). At the end of the day, Israel’s obstinate intransigence, which it appears determined to maintain at any cost to its most important ally and de-facto patron, adds another line to the growing bill Americans can’t be too happy to foot for much longer. The best Israel can hope for in the short term is that common sense will prevail in Congress. The best thing Palestinians can hope for in the long term is that the bill of Israeli selfishness will grow so huge before Obama is free to deal with it again, that Israel will default on its political capital and American patience to cater to its caprices will be cut drastically short already within the coming year.