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Putting the UN in its Place

- Abstract

The Palestinian Authority’s drive for full United Nations membership that Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned would be a diplomatic “tsunami” turned out to be a tsunami in a teacup. In the end, the United States did not even have to cast a veto in the Security Council: The Palestinian statehood initiative failed for lack of the requisite nine votes.

As a consolation prize, Palestine won admission to the United Nations Economic, Social, and Cultural Organization. UNESCO’s long history of politicization, including anti-Israel measures as well as support for a Soviet-backed initiative for international press censorship, prompted the United States and the United Kingdom to withdraw from the organization in 1984. With the Cold War long over and UNESCO’s notorious corruption and mismanagement cleaned up, Washington rejoined the body in 2003, perhaps hoping this gesture of “multilateralism” would weigh against the tide of opprobrium it suffered for invading Iraq without the UN’s approval. Now, UNESCO will again have to make do without U.S. (or Israeli) financial contributions, because the vote giving membership to Palestine triggered an immediate cut-off of American funds.

About the Author

Joshua Muravchik is a fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.