July 13, 2018
In 1990 and 1994, Congress enacted laws requiring the government to cease funding any “specialized agencies” or “affiliated organization[s]” of the United Nations that grant full membership to the Palestinian Authority (PA). These laws have become relevant since Mahmoud Abbas began a campaign to join international institutions as a stepping stone to a unilateral declaration of statehood and a tool for lawfare against Israel. Since 2016, the PA joined four such groups, which nonetheless continue to receive funds from the U.S. Eugene Kontorovich argues that these organizations should be defunded, not only on strictly legal grounds but also as a matter of policy:
The acceptance of [the PA as a] member state turns these UN agencies into political tools for Palestinian unilateralism, rather than technical agencies dealing with specialized tasks. Moreover, as evidenced by the Palestinian membership in UNESCO, once it is a part of these agencies, the PA will hijack their agendas and divert them to anti-Israel policies and polemics. . . . [I]f the U.S. does not enforce non-waivable statutory measures triggered by PA action, it will lose its credibility as a potential broker of Middle East peace. Any peace plan will require U.S. assurances to Israel in the event the Palestinians take certain hostile measures. Implementing those assurances will always have a cost, a downside. If the U.S. will not abide by its own statutes when doing so might be uncomfortable, it can hardly be expected to do so with mere diplomatic assurances.
[Furthermore], a failure to implement the funding restrictions will only encourage the PA to step up its “internationalization” campaign. . . . Finally, the UN agencies admitted the PA with full knowledge of the consequences. The UN itself has thus put the promotion of the PA’s agenda above the original goals of these agencies. If mandatory U.S. funding cuts would be destructive to the mission of these organizations, they would not have accepted PA membership. If cutting funding impedes the functioning of these organizations, the solution consistent with U.S. law is not to continue funding, but rather defunding [in order] to pressure the PA to quit the organizations it has already joined.
To those who would argue that the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), joined by the Palestinians in May, is too important to be defunded, Kontorovich replies:
While the U.S. does have a strong interest in OPCW’s inspection and destruction programs, the downsides of PA membership are also greater than for other organizations. The PA will, for example, likely use its new position in the OPCW to trigger international involvement in Israel’s use of tear gas against violent rioters. This is something it can only do as a member. Moreover, if the U.S. does not implement its mandatory defunding in this context, it is likely the PA will be encouraged to seek membership in the even more important International Atomic Energy Agency, creating a serious diplomatic headache for the U.S.